Jun 4, 2022

Winthrop: A Gay Kid in 1960s Comics

When I was a kid, if you wanted a good comic strip, like The Wizard of Id or Doonesbury, you had to go across the Mississippi to Iowa and buy the Davenport Times-Democrat. A lot of people did.  Rock Island's newspaper, The Argus (what kind of stupid name was that?), ran only thousand-year old strips like Out Our Way and Alley Oop.

And bargain-basement knock-offs.  Instead of Peanuts, with Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy, we got Winthrop, about a similar group of kids, but with none of the humor or ironic wit.

Apparently Winthrop wasn't intended to be a Peanuts knock-off.  Dick Cavalli started it in 1956 as Morty Meekle, about a mild-mannered office drone who was dating Jill Wortle over her father's strong objections.  Eventually he found the "disapproving dad" schtick too limiting, and started centering strips around Jill's preteen brother Winthrop.  In 1966, Morty and Jill vanished forever, and the strip was renamed Winthrop.

But at least it had gay-vague characters.

Winthrop had a set of quirky friends and relatives, most of whom I don't recall. There was a parrot who quoted Shakespeare, a best friend, a girl with a crush on him, a sister, a bully...nothing special.

But Spotless McPartland was nattily dressed, an intellectual, not into sports, and a germaphobe, sort of the Felix Ungar of the comic strip crowd.

And Foster Norman encapsulated the childhood fear of balloons: they might lift you off the ground and send you soaring into space.

He floated, balloon in hand, over the landscape, week after week, year after year.  He couldn't come down; he was lost  He looked on from above, occasionally making ironic comments about a world that no longer made sense, with rules that he no longer understood.

Even his name was evocative: "Foster," a foster child, someone who doesn't really belong, and "Norman," close to "no man," a boy who will never become a man.

I understood being an outsider, looking onto a world that made no sense, where the cries of "What girl do you like?" filled the air, and same-sex bonds were trivialized and ignored.

I was floating, observing but not belonging.  I was the boy with the balloon.

See also: Gay-coded Peanuts.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill or Hall: No Hill, No Gothic Mansion, No Sex, No Beefcake, No Pedophiles


Disappearance at Clifton Hall, on Netflix.  Sounds like Gothic horror, with ghosts haunting a creepy mansion with eccentric richters lounging around. There's usually a gay ne-er-do-well son in the mix. 

Scene 1: Dad is fishing in the woods with his wife and two toddler-aged daughters, both of whom exude innocence and wholesomeness.  I'll bet one of them vanishes.  Toddler Abby wanders off, and sees a 13- or -14 year old boy in a 1930s "newsies" cap.  He's got a bloody bandage over one eye.  A ghost, maybe?  No -- according to the IMDB, he's played by the considerably older Colin McLeod, so he must grow up later.

Suddenly a car drives up.  He tries to run away, but the occupants -- a man and a woman -- grab him, punch him until he's unconscious, and then shove him into the trunk and drive off.  The man sees the little girl, but doesn't say anything.  

Whoops, I got the name wrong: "Clifton Hill."  So no Gothic mansion, no eccentric richters, no gay ne-er-do-well son.  But where's the hill?  They are at a lake.

Scene 2: Years later, the young adult Abby is on a bus, looking forlornly out the window, on her way to Niagara Falls, Canada.  Switch to a lawyer's office: before she died, Mom agreed to sell her Rainbow Hotel to an evil corporation, which plans to tear it down.  Sister Laura is ok with selling the decrepit old derelict (a haunted hotel?), but Abby wants to keep it open. 

Scene 3: The Rainbow Motel (not a Pride Flag rainbow, all browns and yellows). It's one of those old mom-and-pop operations that advertised "color tv!"  Abby looks around (horrible wallpaper), gazes at a picture of her (dead?) Dad, and then goes to a sleazy bar so she can run into her Love Interest.  

Her cruising technique is a bit problematic: "I'm going for my master's in engineering.  They give all the graduates an iron ring made from an old bridge that collapsed, killing a bunch of people."

Scene 4: But it worked!  They go back to the Rainbow and start having sex under hot-red lights.  Then Abby turns him off by saying "I'm a virgin." He vanishes.  Abbey is upset. Well, it's your own fault for acting crazy.

Scene 5: 
Charlie (Eric Johnson), the young, hot CEO of the evil corporation that wants to buy the hotel, shows up with condolences over Mom's death. Abby yells at him for taking advantage of an elderly widow.  He's got a name, so he must be the real Love Interest.   

Scene 6:
Dinner with Abby, Laura, and Marcus (Noah Reid). Is he a husband, younger brother, or friend?   He's in charge of catching cheaters at the ritzy casino: "There's an art to it.  They stand with their feet pointing toward the exit.  They  use formalized language, like 'I did not have sexual relations.'"  A rather old reference to President Clinton lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.   

Later, Abby digs through Mom's files and finds a packet of photographs from the lake, on the day she saw the kidnapped boy.  One of them shows the male kidnapper standing by his car.  

The next day, Abby goes back to the lake and looks around. An elderly scuba diver, Walter, tells her that he's found all sorts of things on the lake floor, like wedding rings: "Anything that goes over the falls."  He's also the town historian.  Hopefully this will be important later.

Scene 7:  Sister Laura is adamantly opposed to the investigation, so Abby talks Marcus -- now identified as Laura's husband -- into helping.  They report the "kidnapping" to the police.  Uh-oh, the head cop, Officer Singh (Andy McQueen), is her hookup from Scene 4!  He's not interested in opening a case with no evidence but a childhood memory and a photograph, but Marcus yells at him, so he checks the records.  "Nope, no reports of a missing boy in this town in 1994."  Maybe he wasn't from Niagara Falls?  Or maybe it was abusive parents?  

Scene 8:  Abby does her own research, scanning newspapers from 1994. She finds something: Alex Moulin, 13-year old son of husband-wife magician team The Magic Moulins, missing, presumed dead!  Next she finds an old VHS tape about the magicians and their run-down dinner-theater act -- produced by the same evil corporation that wants to buy the hotel!  Charlie's dad must have been in on the kidnapping.  The plot thickens.  

Scene 9:  Abby drives out to the evil corporation's headquarters, an ornate Gothic mansion.  Charlie shows her around, offers her a job, and even offers to put up a plaque honoring the historic hotel after it's torn down. 

Back in 1994, he took Alex Moulin "under his wing."  Actually, he started a mentoring program for troubled kids, sort of like Big Brothers (Wait -- how old was he in 1994?  Eric Johnson, who plays Charlie, was only 15.)

But Alex committed suicide by jumping into the gorge, like hundreds of other people over the years.  He means the Falls: between 20 and 30 people go over the Falls every year, usually on the Canada side The Diving Bells, a family of divers and daredevils, brings up the remains, but after falling such a distance, there's not much of you left.  All they found of Alex was his bloody newsboy cap and one shoe. Not dead.

Scene 10:  Sister Laura joins the investigation after all. Wait -- the newspaper article about Alex jumping into the gorge was from October 13th, 1994.  Abbey saw the "one-eyed boy" during Thanksgiving week, over a month later.  Where was he during that month?  It couldn't possibly have been Thanksgiving.  In Scene 1, they're dressed in summertime clothes, and there's no snow anywhere.  

Research on the Diving Bells -- they've scavenged for the remains of over 200 people during the last 50 years.  The patriarch, Thomas, was killed in 1977, leaving four children, including Walter -- the diver Abby ran into in Scene 6!  He's the one who searched for Alex Mouton's remains!

Scene 11:
The Flying Saucer Restaurant,  a real place in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where Walter conducts a podcast about the paranormal.  But they have lunch first, and Sister Laura wants to know "what happened in Toronto."  "My lying got out of control, so I checked myself into a place."  So she's not really majoring in engineering, and she's not really a virgin?

Scene 12: Abby meeting with Walter.  He asserts that it wasn't suicide, it was murder: Charlie was a pedophile who kept grooming kids, and his wealthy father cleaned up his messes by making them disappear. Wouldn't paying off the parents work better than killing their sons?  A few years before Alex, Charlie "took an interest" in a boy named Donnie Mason, who also went over the falls.  A few years before, Charlie was about 12.  

I'll stop the scene by scene there.  But in case you were wondering, Alex is still alive, and Charlie isn't a pedophile.  He actually saved Alex from the abusers.

Beefcake: No.

Other Sights:  Some establishing shots of the town, but strangely, not much of the Falls.  They usually say "gorge," I guess to avoid scaring tourists away. 

Heterosexism: None.  Other than one kissing scene, there is no sex.  Abby doesn't get a love interest.

Gay Characters: Charlie doesn't express any heterosexual interest, or mention a wife and kids, and gay men are often accused of pedophilia.  But nothing is stated.

Plot Holes: Lots.

My Grade: B

Jun 3, 2022

"Surviving Summer": Two Australian Hunks, A Rude New York Girl, and a Lot of Surfing


Surviving Summer, a 2022 Australian tv series on Netflix:  I could use some tips.  Summer is my least favorite season, boring, hot, and full of people pressuring me to play outside: "It's too nice a day to be cooped up in the house."  And in Australia it's summertime in December, during the dreaded Christmas season, thus compounding the distress.

Scene 1: A long-haired hunk (Kai Lewens) with a long scar down his back bikes barefoot to a desolate beach, and looks out forlornly onto the surf.  Meanwhile, a long-haired girl in a hoodie gazes at the New York City skyline through a chain-link fence, then skateboards joyously with her buds.  Their activities alternate.  The girl and her buds eventually break into a school, set their skateboards on fire, and ride them off the high dive into the pool.  When the police arrive, the buds scatter, but the girl is caught.

Scene 2: Closeup of the girl drawing on her hand while she and her mother talk to a therapist.  She explains that she deliberately got herself kicked out of the "elite private school" because she hates the kids.  (Do people who attend elite private schools really refer to them that way?). But she's been expelled so many times that no school will take her, and Mom is going to the Middle East for a ritzy photography job, so what will happen to....hey, her name is Summer.  This show is not about the season, it's about surviving a girl!

Scene 3: The phone rings in a tiny crackerbox house.  Long -haired hunk's Mum answers.  It's Summer's Mum, calling from her palatial apartment. "I know whe haven't talked for 10 years, but I need a favor."  Summer: "No way I'm living with virtual strangers on the other side of the world!" We're going to get a reversal of Fresh Prince of Bel Air here.  

Scene 4:
Summer arrives in Australia, and looks disgusted as her relatives greet her.  She continues to be rude and snarky on the ride home.  She tells them what they already know: "I was born here, but left when I was four."  They explain that the town she was born in, the isolated resort of Shorehaven, is obsessed with surfing.  Cousin Ari -- the long-haired hunk -- is trainng for a big competition this weekend.  

Cut to Ari with hundreds of other teenage surfers at the Pro Juniors.  He stops to gape at a shirtless muscle guy playing a ukelele -- Marlon (Joao Marinho).  "Sorry about your heat -- you're up against Ahmed, who's much better than you."  Uh-oh, it's snarly competition, not buddy-bonding.   Marlon then tells Ari what he already knows: "Dude, you had a serious accident and were out of the competition for a year."  

They didn't take Summer home after all: they go directly to the beach to watch Ari compete.  Wait -- I thought that was this weekend. Summer just got off the plane. Maybe in Australia you say "this weekend" to mean "right now."  In America we only say it when it's not the weekend yet.

While Summer walks off in search of bars for cell phone reception, Ari gazes slack-jawed at the Girl of His Dreams.  One more boring, heterosexist cliche, and I'm out.  She's giggling and pretending to be an airplane, for some reason.  He's so busy gazing that he accidentally collides with Summer.  

They don't recognize each other, but as she explains why she's in Australia, severely criticizing the family that's been nice enough to take her in, he figures it out.  She only figures it out after he leaves.  "Oh, crap."  They're cousins, so they can't fall in love, right?  So what's with all opposites-attract setup?

Scene 5:  It's time for the Boys Under 15 heat: Casey, Ahmed, and...Ari.  Huh?  Ari is at least 25.  They all surf fully clothed, but at least we see some surfing action.  Ari freezes due to his injury, but eventually rallies and wins the set.

Meanwhile, Summer talks to two girls who are trying to befriend her:  "I'm supposed to be here for six weeks, while Mom is in the Middle East, but everyone here is just awful, including you, so  I'm using my credit card to book a flight home tomorrow."  Oblivious to her insults, the girls invite her to a party tonight. "And bring Ari." After a 23-hour flight from New York to Sydney, plus the long drive to Shorehaven, Summer couldn't possibly be up for a party

Summer assumes that they have a self-serving motive, like everyone in America, so she refuses.  

Scene 6: Back home (finally), Ari shows Summer to her room.  It used to be his room; he forgot to take down the posters of bikini girls.  Did he move out just for her?  Where is he sleeping now?  On the couch? 

Scene 7: At dinner (outside -- my least favorite summertime activity).  They argue over Ari wanting to continue competing, get sponsors and turn pro.  At age 14?  "You're still recovering.  Your body can't handle it."  Summer falls asleep due to jet-lag or boredom.  She heads off to bed.

Later, she gets up and goes to the bathroom, where Ari is brushing his teeth in a towel.  They gaze at each other with sexual tension.  Is it possible that they aren't cousins?  Mom asked a miscellaneous friend in Australia, who she hasn't talked to in ten years, to take care of her daughter? 

Later, Summer sneaks out of the house.  Ari follows.  She tells him about the party: "But did my parents give us permission?"  She sneers.  "I don't need your parents' permission."  Actually, you do. They're legally responsible for you.

Scene 8:  The party -- outside, of course.  A kid skateboarding.  Mason playing his ukelele.  Girls taking selfies.  Summer encourages Ari to approach the Girl of His Dreams.  Too late -- she starts smooching with Mason.  

Another girl approaches.  Ari ignores her to stare at the Girl of His Dreams smooching (come on, nobody gets catatonic with horniness in real life!), so she drags Summer away to see: pictures of her Mum!  "I'll bet you didn't know that your Mum was a surfing champ, back when she was a teenager.  She's the only one from Shorehaven to ever get on the Tour!"  In a town obsessed with surfing?  That seems unlikely.

Summer finds the party boring, so she teaches them how it's done: dancing enthusiastically while perched on a boy's shoulders.  Ari doesn't participate; he's busy staring forlornly at the Girl of His Dreams dancing with...another girl?   Finally he wants to leave -- "I've got finals tomorrow"  -- but Summer doesn't: she wants to skateboard off a balcony into a pipe "and then finish with a sick 540."  Ari disapproves of the idea.  Then...Mum shows up!

Scene 9: Back home.  Yelling.  "What were you thinking! You're grounded!"  "But I have another surfing competition tomorrow."  Wait -- he said he had finals.  They do competitions on weekdays?  And the parents already said that he couldn't do any more competitions.  The premise changes every five seconds!  

Scene 10: 
 Summer and Ari working in the garden, as punishment I assume, while everyone else is surfing.  Summer encourages him to sneak out and go the next competition.  Instead, he whines to Dad (Dustin Clare): "When I was in rehab, this is all I ever thought about.  Competing again.  That's what kept me going...."  "Ok, you guilted me into it.  Go compete."

Meanwhile, serious about catching a flight back to America, Summer tries to hitchhike to the airport. The end.

Beefcake:  Some shirtless guys.

Gay Characters: No such thing.

Heterosexism: Is it possible for gazing at The Girl of Your Dreams to be any more excessively over-acted?  I can hear the director: "Ok, Ari, in this scene, don't behave in any way similar to how a real human being would.  Pretend that you're a cartoon character.  I want to see your eyes bulging three feet out of your head, your jaw literally on the floor, and steam coming out of your ears."

Surfing: A lot.

Summer: Is she supposed to "save" the Australians by teaching them how to overcome their inhibitions and pursue their goals?  It isn't working. She's rude, self-centered, and obnoxious.

My Grade: D

Jun 1, 2022

"Bless this Mess": "Do My Meat" in a Small Town in Nebraska

Bless this Mess,
a 2-season, 28-episode sitcom on Hulu: "newlyweds decide to move from New York City to rural Nebraska."  Huh?  That's the wrong direction -- you abandon your homophobic small town for the safe haven of a big city.  But I guess if they're heterosexual, one place is as good as another.  

It's doubtful that there are any gay characters, but if there are, they will be introduced in Season 2.  So I reviewed Season 2, Episode 13, which had the cryptic title "Volsung and Beef Boy."

Scene 1:  Big city transplants Mike (Dax Shepherd) and Rio (Lake Bell) at the country-style house of their frenemy Beau.  They came to watch his teenage son Jacob, aka Beef Boy (JT Neal, top photo), judge raw meat: "these two are top sirloin..that one is.steakhouse quality" Apparently this skill has made him famous at 4-H Clubs county-wide, and could lead to a career.  

Also his father's love: if he wins the Meat-Judging Contest on Saturday, Beau will gift him with a belt buckle reading "Meat Champ" (if that's on your belt buckle, won't people want to check your meat to see if it's champion-material?).

Scene 2:
Mike( (Dax Shepard, left)  runs into Jacob "Beef Boy" at the General Store: "You have a real talent.  Here -- do my meat!"  (do mine next!  These homoerotic innuendos are obviously intentional).   

But Jacob actually doesn't like judging meat; it's his father's interest, not his.  Mike can relate: he used to have a band called Volsung (iconography and lyrics from Norse mythology), but his high school guidance counselor made him quit and go to college, where he studied journalism, became a reporter....and ten years later got laid off and had to move to Nebraska and become a farmer.  Grr...

Scene 3: B plot about Rio learning to drive.

Scene 4: That night Mike and Rio discuss their days.  Rio hated the driving lesson, and Mike is playing his guitar again.

Scene 5:
Frenemy Beau (David Koechner, left) and son Jacob knock on the door.  Beau is upset because Mike has been filling his son's head with "fairy tales."  Now he refuses to judge meat!  "I'm not Beef Boy anymore!" Jacob exclaims.  "I'm a musician.  Mike and I are starting a band!"  He rushes in with a backpack, planning to stay with Mike.

Beau: "My boy is a golden god that smells like snow cones.  His future is meat.  Fix this!" He's been sniffing his son?

Scene 6: Jacob sings for Mike: "Did you ever get so sad that you tried to eat grass?"  He's awful.  Mike suggests that he go into meat-judging, and keep music as a hobby, but Jacob rejects the idea: "I got no passion for meat."  Maybe you like ladies?  

Jacob has researched Mike's old band, Volsung, and bought one of their t-shirts online.  Mike agrees to sing with him for nostalgia.  

Scene 7: Mike and Jacob practicing a Volsung song.  

Jacob: "Did you see my sex-god face?"  

Mike: "Well, I don't..."  

Jacob: "Here it is again. Are you turned on?"  He's a minor!  It's a trap -- don't answer.

Mike: "I'm going to say yes so we can move on."

Scene 8: The B Plot about learning to drive.  Later, Beau and his wife discuss the Jacob problem: "Do you think we get too angry?  Maybe we should try a different approach to get through to him."

Scene 9: Beau listening to Jacob and Mike play.  He pretends that he loves it.  "Maybe you could perform  during meat-judging contest.  Everybody in the county will be there."  

Scene 10: The meat-judging contest.  A dozen people with red hats and clipboards.  Jacob tells Mike the plan: "As we discussed, I will judge meat for a few minutes, then yell 'rancid meat'!  Then you run onto the stage in Viking gear -- I have mine under my clothes -- and we unleash the raven!" Because Odin had a raven.  Get it?

Scene 11: The B Plot.

Scene 12:
Nervous, Jacob takes the stage and begins meat-judging.  He gets so much adulation that he forgets to give Mike the signal, and turns his judging into a sexy rap: "Though #1 displayed a uniform color and was firmer, #2 displayed much less...bone."  I prefer more bone.   He looks like a construction worker-stripper, but nothing actually comes off.  Stil, everyone cheers, and a row of high school girls swoon.

Later, Mike and Rio congratulate Jacob on his victory.  He realized that he has no passion for either meat or music; his true passion is being cheered.  So, Magic Mike in your future?  Then: "I'm gonna bounce.  Some of the kids want me to autograph their meat."  Taste it first.

Mike takes the stage and begins singing a Volsung song.  The end.

Beefcake: Jacob is cute; the other two male cast members, not so much.

Gay Characters:  Jacob is not canonically gay -- he has a girlfriend in another episode -- but here he doesn't display any heterosexual interest: no "as a musician I'll get girls," both boys and girls cheering as he judges the meat.  Plus asking Mike if he's "turned on"  by his "sex-god face" suggests that he wants to be a sex-god with men and women both.

Homoerotic Innuendos:  Obviously intentional, but the joke is that everyone is oblivious.

Follow Your Dream: I expected Dad to accept Jacob's interest in music, not meat, a sort of parallel to being interested in boys, not girls (or girls, not boys).  But it didn't happen.

My Grade: A- for the episode, C for the series.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", 2012 or 2018: Mikey finds a Boyfriend


I've never been particularly interested in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies or tv shows.  Mutated turtles who talk like valley dudes and are named after Renaissance painters?  Too weird, although  I did review two of the movies a few years ago (See Which of the Ninja Turtles is Gay?)

But I was drawn into a promo on Netflix that featured "Mikey" overtly in love -- eyes turning into little hearts -- with a guy!  

It's Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018-2021), originally on Nickelodeon, with the premise and character personalities slightly altered.  The turtles are young teens with Anglicized names: Leo the leader (Ben Schwartz), Donnie the tech guy (Josh Brener), Raph the muscle (Omar Benson Miller), and Mikey (Brandon Mychal Smith), "an affectionate and sensitive artist" (lots of gay code words there).  The "overtly in love" scene is from Episode #4.

Scene 1: Evil black-skull ninjas practing.  Master Shredder enters and congratulates his "greatest pupil."   He announces that he's found an old enemy, Hamato Yoshi, hiding in the sewers of New York, transformed into a giant rat named Master Splinter.  He wants Black-Skull to destroy him and his turtle-ninjas.  A switchblade-wielding thug named Xever will assist, since he knows the area.

Scene 2: The Turtles patrolling on the rooftops of New York.  Mikey wants to return a lost cat to its owner, but the others warn: "You can't show yourself to humans.  They'll freak out."  Mikey doesn't listen, and the owner freaks out.  "The humans will never understand you!" 

Suddenly Mikey sees a poster advertising an appearance by martial artist Chris Bradford.  "That guy will understand me! He's my soul mate!  Maybe he'll show me his secret kata."  Only if you buy him dinner first.  

His brothers disagree: "He's a famous celebrity!  No way will he be interested in you!"

They're attacked by Black-Skull and his team, but everyone scatters when the police arrive.

Scene 3: Back in the sewer, Mikey reads about Chris Bradford in a magazine and makes "yummy" noises.  "I wish we were friends!"  Their human ally, April, points out that she is his friend.  "You don't count -- you're a girl."  

April suggest "friending" him on social media.  Mikey tries it, his eyes turning into little hearts.  Bradford accepts the friend request immediately! '

 "Don't get your hopes up," April warns. "He's probably got thousands of friends."  "But none like me -- we're soul mates!"  

Scene 4: Bradford leaving his boxing club.  Mikey appears; Bradford attacks, but calms down when he announces that they're social media friends.  They shake hands; Bradford invites him in.

Later, Mikey enthusiasticlly describes their date to his bored brothers.  "And then he put on his akama..."  So before he was naked?  Did they hook up on the first date?  

Raph jokes: "Maybe he'll wear it when he takes you to the prom."  This seems to be a homophobic jibe, implying that Mikey's interest in Bradford is romantic, therefore "wrong."

Scene 5: Bradford boxing.  Mikey appears.  He rolls his eyes and recoils at a hug, but pretends to be happy to see him.  "Now tell me everything about you, including your sensei." Uh-oh, ulterior motive!

Scene 6:  Out to dinner (actually, pizza on the roof).  Bradford continues to feign interest in Mikey while pumping him for information.  "Tell me about your sensei."  But Mikey won't talk about Master Splinter; it's a secret.

Later, in the bedroom (what, precisely, are they up to?), Bradford promises to show him his secret Death Dragon move, if he doesn't tell anyone else about it.

Scene 7: Mikey describing the Death dragon move to his brothers.  Bradford texts and asks him out; he leaves. 

Cut to Bradford -- have  you already figured out that he's Black-Skull?  -- telling his associate Xever: "The freak is on the way.  The trap is set." 

The other turtles are practicing the Death Dragon move.  Master Splinter sees them, and remembers his arch-nemesis Shredder using it, back when he was human.  They realize that Bradford is Shredder's associate, using Mikey to get intel on Splinter.

Scene 8:  Mikey arrives at the darkened dojo for the date.  Bradford and his associate Xever attack, subdue him, and tie him up.  "You actually thought that someone like me could be friends with someone like you?" he sneers.  

Scene 9: The other turtles to the rescue!  A very quick rescue -- they don't realize that Bradford planted a tracking device on Mikey, and now knows where their secret hideout is. 

Except the turtles do know.  They capture all of the ninjas except for Bradford and Xever.  After a battle, they flood the tunnel so the baddies are swept out into the sewer.

Scene 10: Pizza back at the lair.  Master Splinter is despondent: "Shredder now knows that I'm alive and training ninjas, and he'll try to destroy us again."  

Mikey is despondent, too.  "This was all my fault.  I should never have tried being friends with a human."  "You're an awesome guy.  You deserve better friends than Bradford."  Mikey unfriends him.  The end.

Is Mikey Gay:  There are many hints that Mikey has a romantic interest in Bradford (and a few hints that he has an erotic interest), but he uses only "friend" terminology throughout.  His brothers tease him about having a romantic interest, but don't seem to think of it as a real possibility.  Therefore I doubt that Mikey is canonically gay, but the subtext is obviously intentional.  

Whoops, I made a mistake.  When Netflix shows you something on the home page, you naturally assume that it's new, not something that's been in their vault since the Stone Age, but this is actually a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series from 2012-2017, starring Jason Biggs/Seth Green, Rob Paulsen, Sean Astin, and Greg Cipes. 

No one in that group is particularly gay-friendly, so I doubt that they would approve of making Mikey canonically gay.  Besides, the fans would start screaming:  "Why does eve single character on every single show have to be gay? Leave us at least one straight guy!"  Right, "every" means "more than zero."

We'll have to make do with subtexts.

May 31, 2022

David Cassidy's Comic Book Career

In 1972, when I was 11 years old, David Cassidy was everywhere.

On tv, as Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family.  On Saturday morning cartoons. 

On the radio, where the Partridge Family was still cracking the Top 40, and his own singles were cracking the Top 10.

In 17 paperback novels (The Ghost of Graveyard Hill, Terror By Night, Marked for Terror).

In every teen magazine on the newsstand.

So it made sense that he would push into comic books.  The bargain-basement Charleton Comics, which specialized in cannibalizing other properties, published 14 issues of David Cassidy (1972-73), most with photographs of David on the cover.

Yes, I bought them.

The stories inside were banal, mostly involving David helping a fan, or getting into humorous misadventures on the way to a concert. His fans were portrayed as 100% female.  Men were competitors for girls, manipulating agents, scheming managers, 100% bad guys.

But at least most issues found a way to get David out of his clothes.

By 1973, when David's star was in decline, apparently stories about meeting fans or trying to seduce the one girl in the world who wasn't into him weren't selling well, so the plots moved toward action-adventure, with David meeting spies and pirates.  This says "Outlaws, groovy chicks, and a fiddle bit keep David busy."

A few years later, when his songs were no longer charting, the real-life David also tried to re-invent himself as an action-adventure star with David Cassidy, Man Undercover (1973)..

See also: David Cassidy, Man Undercover; Charlton Comics

The Disney Channel's "Almost Never": A Retro Boy Band Seeks Fame in a Gay-Free World


I'm trying to research every Disney channel teencom for gay texts or subtexts, but Almost Never is runnng into roadblocks.  First, try searching on "Almost Never" and TV and gay, and you get lots of statements about this or that bit of gay representation "almost never" appearing on tv.   

 The premise: two teenage bands, The Wonderland (boys only) and Girls First (girls only), compete for recognition and fame.  They sing at least one cover or original song in each episode, and apparently perform for real-life audiences. 

Yes, but are any of them gay?  I searched the episode guide for male characters without girlfriends, and also researched the cast members to see if any are gay in real life.  

The Wonderland (not to be confused with Wonderland, a Japanese girl band) consists of 

1. Nate (Nathaniel Dass, left).
He dates Chloe from the girl group.  

Searching for "Nathaniel Dass" and "gay," I find an instagram post reading "My coming out story is reaching its conclusion. Feeling hopeless."  With an illustration that's a definite cry for help. It might not be the same person, since he only has 500 followers, not much for a Disney Channel teencom star, and his other posts are mostly paintings.

2. Oakley (Oakley Orchard), Nate's brother.  He dates Mya and gets a crush on Tyra (after that, does he run out of alliterative names?).

Searching for photos of "Oakley Orchard" yields a lot of apple trees.  Searching on "Oakley Orchard" and "gay" reveals an article with tributes to costar Mya-Lecia Naylor, who died by either suicide or accidental asphyxiation in  2019.  You have to subscribe to read more than the first paragraph, so I don't know where the "gay" comes in.  

So far trhe cast list is rather depressing.

3. Harry (Harry Still).
  He tries to impress one girl, then gets a crush on another.

Search on "Harry Still" and TV and gay, and you get lots of statements about this or that Harry being "still gay."

Harry has an instagram account which states that he's "Almost Never on the Disney Channel."  I thought the person hugging him was a guy, but on closer inspection, it's a girl named Tillie.  The post is long and convoluted, but I gather that he's going to have two birthday dinners, one with each of his girlfriends.

So much for the boy band.  What about other regular characters?  They include:

1. Jordan
, their manager, played by Aston Merrygold (nice Tolkien-esque name).  He doesn't date anyone; at least, no one is mentioned in the episode synopses.  

Aston performed shirtless at the G-A-Y nightclub in London, but specifies that he is not actually gay. Wow, one of the ugliest bodies I've ever seen!  He definitely should keep his shirt on.  

2. Fabio (Luke Fetherston), the assistant manager of the girl group, begins a relationship with manager Sasha.  

Be sure that you spell his name as "fether," in spite of the autocorrect's attempts to force "feather," or you'll get a hunky soccer star named Luke Featherstone.

According to the rumor mill, Luke Fetherston will play a gay Green Lantern in an adaption of the DC Comics character, but...he asserts that he's actually not gay in real life.  A lot of cast members aggressively de-gaying themselves.. 

There are three male recurring characters:

1.  Dev (Stephen Rahman-Hughes), father of Nate and girl-band member Molly.  He doesn't date anyone, but he has an estranged wife, so no doubt heterosexual. 

Researching Stephen and "gay" yields a plot synopsis on the long-running soap East Enders about a Muslim lesbian character.  Stephen plays a friend who advises her to stay in the closet, I think.

2. Dan (Ryan Early),
the manager of the Palais Restaurant hangout. He doesn't date anyone.

Researching Ryan Early and "gay" gets you a lot of "I asked Ryan early on if he was gay" and "Ryan's early gay..." 

And the Ryan Early who is the "legislative assistant to Chairman Jim McGovern in the U,S, House of Representatives.

And Hungarian swimmer Lazlo Cseh.  I don't understand the connection.

3. AJ (Colin Hoult), father of boy band members Harry and Oakley, who has a wife.  

Researching "Colin Hoult" and "gay" reveals a standup comedian who performs in drag as "Anna Mann" (but specifies that he's not actually gay, yet again).

I give up. Almost Never has no gay characters and a lot of straight actors who are desperate for us to know that they are straight.  It's the 1990s all over again.

May 30, 2022

Summertime Car Washes

One of the joys of summer is the car wash fundraiser.  Check your local event calendar, and you'll find one or two per week: a club, class, team, or church group is raising money by washing cars.

The attraction, of course, is that they're washing with their shirts off, allowing you to gawk at their spectacular physiques.

They know it.  They plan on it.  It's the one time in the Straight World where everyone acknowledges the existence of same sex desire.

Well, not really.  Everyone is supposed to pretend that it's all about the cars.

A lot of the car wash fundraisers feature women instead of men, so you have to be careful.  Is it a male team or club?  Is it being advertised by men?  Especially men who wrap the signs around their waists, implying that they are naked.

You also have to worry about the age of the guys.  They are typically in high school or college, but occasionally younger groups host car washes.  No point in gawking at a group of 12 year olds.

If you're lucky, they'll be even older than college age.

I stay away from car washes with both male and female participants.  They invariably try to steer male drivers toward the females, and female drivers toward the male.  If you insist on the "male" group, they act as if they have never heard of anything so outrageous.

And what's up with the car washers who leave their shirts on?  I understand that when you're out in the sun for hours, you can get burnt, but that's what sunscreen is for.

You're not allowed to just stand and watch the workers. That would make the real reason for the car wash fundraisers too obvious.

But nobody says you can't bring your car in to be washed several times.

Harrow: How do you solve a gay teenager's murder without promoting homophobia?


According to the Hulu blub, Daniel Harrow is "a brilliant forensic pathologist who solves cases that others can't."  Naturally.  I'll bet they are all about serial killers...yawn.  But Episode 8 is about "the death of a "young, gay student," so I tuned in to see how homophobic it was.

Prelude:  Someone rowing in the river sees a body on the shore.

Scene 1: Harrow wakes up, notices that his bedmate is gone, makes breakfast, and looks at old photos.  Dead wife, the oldest cliche in the heterosexist writer's manual. I'm already disgusted, and we haven't even met the gay student yet.  

Scene 2: Harrow goes to work in his elegant, ornate coroner's office, and yells at a woman named Pavich for performing an autopsy in his exam room.  She explains: a body came in, and she hasn't done an autopsy for a long time, so she couldn't resist. She's planning to take a job in Geneva, which will upset the boss.

Scene 3:
The boss, Bryan, trying to get ahold of Pavich, without success: she's ghosting him to avoid having to reveal the Geneva job.  He and his coworkers discuss a case about "tyres."  Is this England? I'm watching on mute with subtitles, so I haven't heard the accents.

Meanwhile, the hunky Jesse (Ulu Lakutefu, left) gets up and smooches on his wife or girlfriend, who quickly hides whatever she was doing on her laptop.  This show is apparently not the corpse-of-the-week.  He invites her to have sex, but she refuses.  He suggests a weekend on the coast; she refuses.  The plot thickens.

Scene 4: Back at the autopsy, a Stick-in-the-Mud Guy comes in and gets all persnickety about Pavich playing around inside a corpse.  He's already applied for her job, so now everyone knows that she's leaving!  She yells at him and stalks off.

Then Hunky Assistant (Remi Hii) comes in, and tells Harrow that he's taking David to a resort for his 30th birthday.  A gay coworker!   Harrow tells him to finish the autopsy.  He leaves and gets a phone call: "It's Dass.  Fancy getting out of the office for a bit?"  Definitely England.  We don't use "fancy" as a verb in America.

Scene 5: A woman photographing the corpse from the river.  The guy playing the corpse has a nice bulge.  Harrow arrives and asks for the details: he's Rhys Weir, 17 years old, a member of his high school rowing team, dead from a massive skull fracture.  It looks like he let himself into the rowing shed, got a boat, and slipped and hit his head as he tried to launch it.  But...he's been dead since about 2:00 am. Who goes rowing at 2:00 am?

They interview the rowing coach: all team members have keys to the shed, but they aren't allowed to go rowing before 5:00 am.  By the way, there was a big rowing meet yesterday, and Rhys flubbed a stroke, resulting in his team losing the championship. She continues: Rhys came out as gay last year, but all of his schoolmates and faculty have been totally supportive.  

His Mom is gone, and his Dad is in Dubai.  He mostly lived by himself.  Letting a minor live without an adult guardian?  We would be screaming "child abuse!" in the U.S.

 A teammate named Luke left an instagram message: "Thanks for losing, Asshole."  His scholarship is in jeopardy due to the lost championship.  A suspect!

Scene 6: Back at  the office, Harrow and Hunky Assistant begins an autopsy.  Nothing cut open yet, a nice rear view of the naked guy playing the corpse. Now turn him over, so we can see his dangly bits.  Injuries consistent with slipping and hitting your head on the concrete.  End of story?  

They turn the body over (nice chest, no dangly bits).  Wait -- he was going into anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. That's why he fell and hit his head. 

Scene 7:  Rhys must have been exposed to the allergin at the boat ramp.  But there was no food in his backpack or his car.  Harrow and the lady cop he's flirting with check the boat shed.  No food, but they find Rhys' notebook.  Someone left him a note: "Leave him alone!"  A jealous boyfriend or girlfriend?

Hunky Assistant calls -- Rhys hadn't eaten anything all day, but there was a strange base protein on his tongue.  He also had been drinking.  So he does the autopsy, and the genius forensic pathologist does regular detective work?

Scene 8: Harrow and the lady cop he's flirting with interview the teammates.  Sean, Rhys, Luke, and Ash all went to Ash's house after the competition, to drink vodka and console each other.  Rhys left at 1:00 am.  They let a friend drive drunk?   They don't know what the "Leave him alone!" is about; Rhys didn't have a boyfriend.

As they leave, Harrow stumbles upon Luke fighting with another guy.  Luke won't say what's going on.

Scene 9:  Back at the office, Harrow teases Stick-in-the-Mud Guy about applying for Pavich's job (remember, she's moving to Geneva?).  "No way!  You're a loose cannon.  You disregard protocols!  You don't play by the rules."  Like every cop, detective, surgeon, teacher, and forensic pathologist who has ever appeared in any movie or tv show.

Hunky Assistant bring in the lab report:  the allergin was semen!   Turns out that semen allergy is a real thing, but heteronormative medical reports assume that the semen is going into a vagina.  But not anyone's semen, just one particular guy's.  Who would have been there when he started choking, but didn't bother to call for help.  Let's find him with a DNA analysis!  Fortunately, they have a fully equipped DNA lab right there at the morgue.

Scene 10:
They ask all of the boys that Rhys was with that night to provide a DNA sample.  Sean (Joe Klocek) says he's happy to provide one, but his Dad is outraged: "Grr, grr, why are you maligning my son's reputation by implying that he's a poof? I'm calling my lawyer!"  

A police diver looking for clues in the river stumbles upon a human skull!  Back at headquarters, Stick-in-the-Mud Guy and Pavich argue about who should do the forensic analysis.  

More stuff about the "two tyres" case, which also is the case of Hunky Jesse's wife or girlfriend from Scene 3 (remember her).  

Scene 11:  Back to Harrow.  More bad news: all of the boys are refusing to let them give DNA samples, so they have to go to the Supreme Court for an order, which will take weeks.  Harrow rushes to an opulent mansion and yells at Sean: "Why did you change your mind?  You don't need your father's permission to give a DNA sample.  Let's go to the station and do one!"  Sean yells "You can't be here!" and slams the door in his face.

More stuff about the "two tyres" case. Harrow is personally involved.   I'm beginning to think that it's the A plot, and the guy who died of semen poisoning is the B plot.

Scene 12:  Back at the lab, Harrow tells Hunky Assistant -- Simon -- that all of the boys have refused DNA samples.  How long has it been?  Rhy's corpse is still lying naked on the examination table, untouched.  Didn't they open up his stomach?

Harrow notices something else: there was algae all over the boat ramp, and on Rhys' clothes, but none in his head wound.  How is that possible?  They make a cast of the wound and compare it with the boat ramp steps.  Not a match!  He fell somewhere else, and then someone brought him to the ramp as a cover-up.

Next, they sneak into the yard of Sean's opulent mansion, and check it against the fountain.  A match!  Rhys hit his head there!

Harrow confronts Sean:  "You and Rhys left together that night, and came here.  You had sex by the fountain, and then he went into shock and hit his head. It was an accident -- you're not to blame."  Then Dad comes out and starts yelling and punching everyone.

Spoiler alert: it was Dad!  He caught them together, got angry, and pushed Rhys.  Still an accident, but then he refused to call an ambulance.  Instead, they covered it  up.  (Dad left the note in Rhys' notebook, too.) The title actually broadcasts the solution: "Peccata Patriai," the sins of the father.  

Scene 13:  Rhys' Dad, finally back from Dubai, views the body.  Out in the hallway, Hunky Assistant talks to Harrow: "Things were rough for me when I came out in high school, but I thought gay kids today would have it easier.  I guess the world haven't changed as much as we'd like to think it has."  There was just one homophobe in the lot, and it was the boyfriend's dad.  Sounds like progress to me.

He's upset by the case, so Harrow loans him his car to drive up the coast with David.

There are still 10 minutes left for the A plot.

Beefcake:  Harrow's chest while he wakes up.  Lots of shots of the corpse in pristine condition, obviously meant to provide beefcake appeal. Other boys take off their shirts in flashbacks.

Gay Characters: Three.

Heterosexism: Harrow has a girlfriend and an ex-wife in the A plot.

Forensic Investigation: They actually use forensics to solve the case, although Simon does all the work

My Grade: B if Simon mentions being gay in other episodes.  Otherwise C.

Update: Simon is killed halfway through Season 2 (bury your gays).  His boyfriend David either doesn't appear, or appears in just one episode.

May 29, 2022

The Gay Texts and Subtext on Nickelodeon Now

The children's series on Netflix tend to feature gay characters (albeit identified only by pride flags or closted until Season 2).  But outside, in the broadcast world of Nickelodeon, The Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel, it's still a heteronormative wasteland.

Nickelodeon has the most representation, at least in its animated programs.  There are relatively open LGBTQ characters on three of its nine current animated series: The Loud House (bi girl), Rugrats (Iesbian mom), The Casagrandes (single-episode lesbian classmate), Middlemarch Post (cloud with they/them pronouns).  Nickelodeon often hints that Spongebob Squarepants is gay, but never makes it explicit; if we include the three series that he is featured in, the total is six.

LGBTQ characters are absent in the live-action series, so we have to make do with occasional subtexts.

1. Warped:  The manager of a comic book store, Milo (Andrew Starkman, top photo), butts heads with his coworker Ruby.  One expects them to fall in love, but as far as I can tell, Milo has yet to express any heterosexual interest.

2. Tyler Perry's Young Dylan.  I don't know who Tyler Perry is, but he doesn't appear in the cast list of this show about an aspiring rapper.  According to Wikipedia, the 10-year old Young Dylan has a female "love interest." 

3. Danger Force:
Jace Norman (left) and Cooper Barnes reprise their roles from Henry Danger as the mentors of a new crop of tween superheroes.  Their resident inventor, Schwoz (Michael D. Cohen) has mentioned that he is trans, and another trans character appeared in one episode.

4. Side Hustle:
  Two girls and a boy (Isaiah Crews) engage in various quirky "side hustles" to make money.  The older brother is played by Jacques Chevelle, who has a "pride" photo on his Instagram and gives advice to young LGBTQ kids in an interview, but hasn't actually stated that he is gay.  Maybe his character is gay, but but nothing has been stated on the show.

5. That Girl Lay Lay.  Sadie's phone app avatar comes to life and causes trouble with her magical powers and lack of understanding of social conventions.  There is a boy in the cast, Jeremy (Caleb Brown), but no indication that Sadie has a crush on him, or on any boy.  

6. The Fairly Oddparents: Fairly Odder
.  When Timmy Turner of the long-running animated series goes off to college, he gives his fairies, Cosmo and Wanda, to his young cousin, Viv, and her new stepbrother Roy (so fairies are property that you can give away?).

The original series was loaded-down with gay subtexts, but this rendition seems to be subtext-free.  TV Tropes mentions a gay-stereotype Owl.  We'll have to make do with Ryan James Hatanaka as "Ty Turner," Viv's Dad.

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