Jun 10, 2022

"First Kill": Lesbian Vampire/Vampire Slayer Romance at a Posh Private School in Savannah

 


We know what First Kill, on Netflix, is from the start: the promo and plot synopsis both tell us that it's about a vampire and vampire slayer, both teenage girls, in love.  Like a lesbian version of Buffy and Angel, or Romeo and Juliet with fangs.   I just hope there are boys in it, too.  

Scene 1:  Two girls kissing amid bizarre images of flowers blooming, red pills, blood, and things I can't identify.  Teenage Juliette wakes up: "What a crazy dream!"  She tries on various outfits, thinking "Everyone else has it all figured out, but I don't fit in."  That's what everybody in high school thinks, girlfriend.  Then she walks through her palace -- are her parents rock stars?  -- to another bedroom to put on lipstick.  

Mom and Dad (Will Swenson, top photo, with short hair) are in the kitchen, but there's no food around (hint, hint).  Holding hands, they discuss her pills. "Are you ok?"  "Of course I'm not ok, but I won't say it, because it would be the end of everything."  I figured it out already: Juliette is ready to become an adult vampire, so she'll have to switch from blood pills to actual humans. If you want it to be a big mystery, why broadcast it in the promo? 

Wild child Elinor comes in after a wild night of partying, all glamorous. (It was her bedroom in the palace that Juliette raided for lipstick).  A  horn honks: it's the fabulously flamboyant Ben (Jonas Dylan Allen), picking Juliette up for school.


Scene 2:
Establishing shot of Savannah, Georgia as they drive to school, singing a song about a cheating boyfriend.  Juliette explains: Ben is the cool kid, the popular athlete who's invited to all the parties.  Also gay (shot of him kissing a boy in the locker room).  No waiting until Season 2 to come out here.  

At school -- ritzy Lancaster Academy -- Juliette gets "another migraine."   And she's getting super-sensitive to light and sound -- vampire puberty, I surmise.   Ben invites her to a party tonight being held by his crush, Noah, who has a girlfriend but might be gay or bi anyway.

Scene 3: Ben and Juliette sitting by themselves at lunch.  If Ben is so popular, why isn't he at the Cool Kids Table?  Juliette sees the Girl of Her Dreams, also sitting by herself.  "Just go talk to her!" Ben suggests.  "I have.  At least I've tried."

Scene 4: After school, as they head down the steps to the parking lot, Ben is offering ideas on breaking the ice with The Girl. Whoops!  At the bike racks, they collide!  Juliette spills her red pills on the ground. Staring in absurdly over-acted jaw-dropping horniness, she tries ineptly to flirt, but all she manages to get is  The Girl's name (Calliope, or Cal for short).  She also invites her to the party tonight, although they both admit to hating parties. Anything to get laid.  

Scene 5: English class.  I guess Scene 4 wasn't after school.  So why was Calliope at the bike racks?  Everyone is passing around fliers about the Big Party.  The cliched sanctimonious teacher yells at them for it, and then at Calliope for coming in late.  He forces her to read a Flannery O'Connor story aloud.  

Scene 6: After class.  Juliette tries to stalk Calliope, but she's too fast.  She droped her bracelet, but it's made of silver, so when Juliette touches it, she gets a nasty burn. Didn't your parents teach you anything about being a vampire?  

I'm bored.  We're being hit over the head with Juliette's vampire-puberty.  This is obviously going to be a Romeo-and Juliet (or Cal and Juliette) story of two warring houses: rich/poor, black/white, vampire-vampire slayer. Are there at least some cute guys?

No beefcake photos of Roberto Mendez (Ben's crush) Dylan McNamara (Juliette's brother Oliver), or Dominic Goodman (Cal's brother Apollo), but here's one Philip Mullings, Jr. (Cal's  other brother, Theo).






"The Little Vampire 3D": An Inch Away from a Fully Open Gay Romance

 


The Little Vampire (2000) had a strong gay subtext (plus Jonathan Lipnicki, who grew up into a super-hunk), so I was interested in seeing what would happen with the new anmiated adaption, The Little Vampire 3D (2017).  Would they turn the subtext into a text, or diffuse it by giving the boys girlfriends?

Scene 1: Transylvania, Romania.  Weird to have both the historic region and modern-day Romania juxtaposed like that. A swarm of vampires flies into an abandoned church to celebrate the birthday of Rudolph, the Little Vampire (actually 13 in human years).  He's not into it: he never ages, so what's the point? We meet various humorous characters, like Rudolph's industrious sister, his chubby mother, his bickering uncle and aunt who flew in from Germany.  Did a whole extended family become vampires at the same time, or do vampires reproduce the way humans do, or are "uncle" and "aunt" just honorifics?

Scene 2:  An American family on vacation, complete with camper in tow.  13-year old Tony is obsessed with vampires, but his parents point out that there is no such thing  Plus they're tired of hearing the v-word.  Suddenly their car slides off the road, down an embankment, and crashes right into the vampires' graveyard.  

Scene 3:  Transylvania Tech Works.  The boss, Rookery, wakes up his abused employee, Maney (who looks like an older version of Tony).  "They're swarming," so he needs the truck.  

Scene 4: At the catacombs, Rudy's teenage brother is arguing with his parents: he's old enough to go hunting alone!  Finally he storms out -- Rudy follows him to a gas station sitting alone in the forest.  A man is walking his dog.  Prey!  But at that moment the vampire hunters arrive and shoot Big Brother -- Gregory  He falls to the ground, severely injured.  Rudy rushes to the rescue, and flies him back the catacombs, with the vampire hunters on their trail!

He's always called Rudolph in the movie, but I prefer Rudy.

Scene 5: The American family is rescued by a stereotypic German couple (in Transylvania?), who run a bed and breakfast in a huge, ornate castle.  Wait -- they were planning to go to the B&B all along, so why the camper?

Back at the catacombs, they tend to Gregory's wounds. Rudy goes outside to see if the vampire hunters tracked them.  Yep.  Now they're sealing the vampires in the catacombs!  The main family manages to escape, with the vampire-hunters in hot pursuit -- in an airplane?  Rudy draws it away so the others can hide in Uncle and Aunt's crypt -- in Germany? It's a thousand kilometers from Cluj to Munich.  Those vampires are fast fliers!


Now Rudy has to hide, so he ducks into the B&B/castle where Tony is staying.  Ok, the B&B is in Germany, not Transylvania. 

 Finally, the two boys meet!  Distrust -- posturing -- obvious flirting -- let's shake hands and not let go -- gazing into each other's eyes.   

Tony: "You can hide here, just no..."

Rudy: "Don't worry, I haven't sucked human blood in a long time."

Tony: "So you're not going to...um...bite me?"

Rudy: (Puts an arm around him, smiles).  Only time will tell.

Whoa, that's hot.  He came within an inch of saying "suck my cock."  These guys are going to kiss any second now.

Scene 6:  Rudy is hungry, but it's still daylight out, so Tony wraps him in aluminum foil and leads him to a cow to suck; but he takes too much, and turns it into a vampire-cow.  Meanwhile, Maney the Vampire Hunter is feeling guilty because his light-invention hurt a vampire.  


Scene 7: 
 To add a little tension to the relationship, Rudy becomes angry because mortals like Tony have trapped his clan and are hunting his family.  After they argue and fight a bit, Tony promises to help.  

Rudy demonstrates that, when they hold hands, Tony can fly, too. Wait -- how does Rudy know about this, unless he's flown with humans before?  Apparently Tony is not his first human boyfriend.

Rudy is apprehensive about introducing his new human boyfriend to the family.  Dad disapproves: "You can have your mortal friend, or you can be a member of this family."  He chooses Tony.

Mom and Sister Anna are more supportive of Rudy's...um...coming out.  Sister Anna flirts with Tony, and he gets all goofy, but not to worry, it's not really hetero-romance.  She put him under a spell.

Scene 9:  The vampire hunters capture Tony, "The little vampire lover," and tie him up.  Could you get any more obvious?   Rookery wants to kill him, but Maney feels guilty.  Meanwhile, Anna and Rudy follow; Anna denies that she is love with him.  Uh-oh, is a heterosexual fade-out kiss imminent?

Tony tries to escape by swimming across the lake, but almost dies of hyperthermia before the vampires rescue him.

Scene 10: The vampire-hunters go to the B&B and reveal the Tony-Rudy relationship to his parents.  They are shocked.  "The family is always the last to know."  How blatant can the gay symbolism get?

Meanwhile, Anna and Rudy argue over who will save Tony from his hypothermia (Rudy wins).  

 The vampire-hunters are returning to Transylvania to kill the vampire clan, so Anna, Rudy, and Tony have  to save them. Tony can't leave without telling his parents, but if he tells them, he won't be allowed to go.  Not to worry; Anna casts a spell on them, and they all drive to Transylvania.  Rudy and Tony fly (more hand-holding and hugging).  

Scene 11: Rudy and Tony don't reach the catacombs by dawn, so Rudy goes to sleep in an empty crypt in a cemetery, and Tony goes on by himself.  He has to remove the steel net from the catacomb entrance (why couldn't the vampires do that?)  More hugging.  These guys are definitely boyfriends.


Scene 12:
  Rudy awakens and flies to the catacombs, arriving just in time to see the vampire-hunters about to shoot Tony.  He intervenes.  

They have rigged a bomb to seal off the catacomb entrance, trapping the vampires inside forever (Rudy and Tony hug as they await the explosion).  

Surprise!  There's another way out of the catacombs.  (So all of this plot is for nothing?  The vampires could have escaped at any time?)  Big Brother Gregory is reunited with Rudy and "my...um...friend."  He is reluctant to accept a human boyfriend, but finally gives in.  They shake hands.  

Scene 13: The vampire-hunters want revenge on the boys who ruined their plans (how? they didn't do anything but get captured and rescue each other).  They chase Rudy and Tony with crossbows and bombs.  Anna jumps out of the parents' car, and she and Tony, on the back of the vampire cow, rush off to save the clan, leaving Rudy behind.  (Wait -- why don't they hold hands to fly?  Because that would be too close to romantic, and the writers want to emphasize the Tony-Rudy romance?  Anna doesn't even hold on to Tony while riding the vampire cow.)

While the boy and the girl are gone, Rudy saves the carload of parents from being pulverized by the vampire-hunters.  Maney, upset over all their evil deeds, breaks up with vampire-hunter Rookery.  Then Rookery gets squashed by Tony and Anna on the flying vampire cow (unconscious, maybe dead).


Scene 14: 
The vampire and human parents decide to trust each other after all.  They join the kids, plus the rest of the clan for Rudy's belated birthday party (yeah! Anna stops sitting behind Tony on the vampire cow!). 

Rudy is sad because the clan has lost its home in the catacombs, and it will be dawn soon (he's the only one who thought of that?).  Tony suggests the castle B&B.  They all arrive and move in.  The movie ends with the vampire cow winking at us before flying off.  Rather a let-down ending.  No hugging, no "we'll be together forever," no nothing between Tony and Rudy.  But at least there's no boy-girl fade-out kiss.

Wait -- there are curtain calls during the ending credits.  The boys appear separately, then together with the rest of the cast behind them.  But they're not holding hands.  They came within an inch of an open gay relationship, but didn't quite make it.  I guess they still needed deniability, so the movie could play in China.

Love, Sidney: Tony Randall Plays...Um...You Know

In a 1972 interview in the gay-vague After Dark magazine, Tony Randall said that he'd recently seen some gay porn.  "Just terrible!  Just disgusting!  There's nothing to watch in that. It confirms something I've always suspected -- they don't like it."  Later he said "There is no such thing as homosexuality -- it's just something invented by a bunch of fags."












Rather an odd statement from someone who had played the gay-vague friend to gay actor Rock Hudson in several movies, including Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957), Pillow Talk (1959), and Send Me No Flowers (1964).  But at the time he didn't believe the rumors -- "6'5, built like Tarzan, very virile. A man's man. I didn't believe it for a moment."





Apparently he spent his life believing that all gay men swished.

Still, he kept trying to incorporate gay plotlines into The Odd Couple (1970-75), about two divorced men sharing an apartment, the prissy, gay-coded Felix (Tony) and the boorish slob Oscar (Jack Klugman).  Every other hip urban sitcom had a gay episode -- why not his?  Maybe Felix could find an article Oscar was writing on gays in sports, and assume that he was gay.  Or they could accidentally get booked onto a gay cruise.  The network censors nixed every idea, so Tony and Jack started baiting the censors by hugging and kissing.  

In 1981, Tony Randall starred in the tv movie Sidney Shorr: A Girl's Best Friend, about a depressed gay artist living in Manhattan who takes in a single mom and her daughter. The gayness was gingerly tiptoed around, conveyed through hints and innuendos.  Oddly, he didn't swish.

The tv version, Love Sidney (1981-83) faced howls of outrage long before it aired.  Right-wing nutjobs hated the fact that a gay man would be openly portrayed on tv (also a woman who had sex without being married).  So Sidney was de-gayed as much as possible, and Laurie (Swoozie Kurtz) became merely divorced, not "loose."

How de-gayed was Sidney?  He never says anything, but there is a photo of his long-dead lover placed tactfully in the background in the apartment. He doesn't know any other gay people, although he rescues a suicidal one in the penultimate episode.  Actually, he doesn't have any friends of his own, although he is quite obsessed with his mother.

He doesn't date any women, except in the 1983 two-parter "Allison."  It doesn't work out, because he's still pining "for someone he lost."  "I really hate her!" Allison exclaims.  Sidney cautions: "Don't hate...er, that person."

That's as gay as tv got in 1983.

That's as gay-friendly as Tony Randall got.


Jun 9, 2022

"Two Summers": Ten Belgian Hunks, Lots of Straight People

 


Two Summers, a Belgian tv series: "A close circle of friends reunites for a lavish holiday, decades after one of them was a victim of a sexual assault."  The promo shows only guys, including two who are obviously romantic partners, so it's probably a group of gay friends. Sexual assault with male victims rarely appears in mass media, except as a joke, and sexual assault of gay men is practically unheard-of.  So this will be a groundbreaking series.   I'll watch the first episode.

Scene 1: Silicon Valley, USA.  Wait -- I thought it would be set in Belgium.  I can see the USA anytime, but I haven't been to Belgium since 2013.  An ultra-modern glass-and-steel mansion.  Rich Guy plays with his cell phone on the toilet, watching an old video of partying young adults (June 18, 1992).  Two guys kissing on an unconscious girl.  He's horrified.  "This can't be happening."  Hey, I thought it was a gay man being sexually assaulted, not a girl.

Romée calls in to ask if he's ok.  I have the mute on, so I can't tell if it's a male or female voice.  It had better be male.

The person who sent the video texts Rich Guy: "That was 30 years ago.  Now it's payback time!"  They waited exactly 30 years?  "Pay 100 bitcoin by Monday or the video goes viral."

Rich Guy  obviously participated in the rape, or videotaped it, but he thought that the tape had been destroyed.   He groans "Oh, fuck!" and splashes water in his face.

Out to the expansive living room.  Romée is a woman!  What about the four guys together in the promo, two of them nearly kissing?  Maybe there were gay guys at the party back in 1992. 

I figured out the Belgian angle: The party guests were all Belgian, speaking Flemish.  Rich Guy has moved to the States since.

All of the party guests who are still alive have different actors playing their older and younger selves.  I checked several reviews for the gay guests:


1. Rich Guy Peter (Tom Vermier, Lukas Bulteel) is one of the two guys raping the unconscious Sophie in the video from 1992.  He was dating Romée, another party guest, and now they're married. Straight.

2. Mark (Felix Meyer) is the other guy who raped Sophie.   The next day he died (presumably) when the house caught fire, and he was trapped in his room. Straight.

3. Didier (Herwig Ilegem, Bjarne Devolder, left) was dating Sophie at the time.  He watched, but didn't intervene.  Now he and Sophie are married. Straight.


4. Luc (Kevin Jannsens, left, Tijmen Govaerts), Peter's younger brother. didn't participate or watch, as he was in his room, recovering from cancer chemotherapy.  Eventually he married another party guest, Saskia. After they divorced, got a new girlfriend. Straight





5. Stef, aka Mowgli (Koen De Bouw, left,  Vincent Van Sande) videotaped the rape.  He was interested in Saskia in 1992, and now that she's not with Luc anymore, they can start dating. Straight.





6. The only other male cast member is Simon Verbruggen as Jens, who plays the special-needs son of Luc's girlfriend.  He appears in only two episodes.  Probably straight.

So the promo, with the four guy, two of them obviously a couple, was just a gay tease.

Figures.  But at least I got to research some Belgian hunks.

Jun 8, 2022

Grantchester: A Hot, Hip 1950s Vicar with a Grumbling Detective Sidekick and a Gay Assistant


 Grantchester.  Why do British dramas always have three-syllable name titles, like Loudermilk (wait, that's American)?  This one, six seasons long, is set between 1953 and 1958, when a "young vicar"  solves murders in a "quiet English village," sort of like Miss Marple.  He's assisted by a police detective, maybe there will be a bit of buddy-bonding.  Plus, as The Mirror reports, there's a shirtless scene.  This vicar knows his way around a gym!  

Plus the Vicar's curate (like an assistant), Leonard, is gay!  And has a boyfriend, Daniel (who isn't just mentioned, he actually appears in 25 episodes).  The Vicar is fine with it -- yes, there were gay-positive clergy in the 1950s.  So I watched the first episode where the boyfriend appears -- Season 2, Episode 1.


Scene 1
: The family (whose, I don't know) picnicking along the river. Curate Leonard is reading a book (can't make out the title, but not much of gay interest available back then except The City and the Pillar).  Detective Geordie (Robson Green, left) and Vicar Sidney (James Norton, top photo) go swimming, along with a dog named Dickens. Whoa, here's the shirtless scene!  Everyone criticizes Vicar Sidney for not having a girlfriend.  "One day you'll be sad and alone."  "Alright, then, find me a woman."

Scene 2:  Singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers," they return to the vicarage. Uh-oh, Detective Phil is there to arrest Sidney for "sexual assault."  Did they have that crime in England in the 1950s?  Wouldn't it have been rape?

Scene 3: At the police station in London, Chief Inspector Burroughs interrogates Sidney: "Are you married?  Do you have a girlfriend?"   The complaint was made by the father of a teenage parishioner, Abigal Redmond.  According to her diary, Sidney took her to a hotel and forced her to have sex.  Plus Abigal and her diary have now gone missing.  Sidney says "She's lying!", so the Inspector releases him.  That's it? I thought they'd arrest him for murder.

Scene 4:  Vicar Sidney is depressed.  Flashback (I think) to when some teenagers were browsing in the church library.  Abigail complained that a Bible story book left out the naughty bits. She asked Sidney if he had ever had sex with a woman, which upset teenage Gary (Sam Frenchum).  He appears to be mentally challenged.

Detective Geordi reveals him that no one has seen the diary except the father.  Maybe he made the whole thing up!  


Scene 5:
Back at the vicarage, Vicar Sidney gets a visit from Sam (Andrew Knott, left), an old seminary friend sent by the Archdeacon (that is, the Big Boss) to check on the scandal.  I don't know why this is important.

Sidney bursts into the youth group and yells "Where is Abigail?  Is this one of her jokes?"   "She went to the Daniel Marlowe Studio to pick up some photographs." Daniel is the future boyfriend, so he can't be the murderer.

Scene 6:  Night.  The photography studio is deserted, so Geordi and Sidney break in.  A bit extreme, innit?  In the dark room, lots of developing glamour photos of Abby.  A lot of booze scattered around.  And a bottle of turpentine, for some reason (maybe you need it for photography). And her dead body!  She's been strangled!  

While the police take photographs, Sidney flashes back to Abby asking him: "How bad do you have to be before God won't forgive you? And what if you can't forgive yourself?"  When Dad showed up, she cried "Please don't make me go home!"  Aha, an abusive father.  No doubt sexual abuse. This is very modern.  Sexual abuse by a parent was not mentioned in the criminological literature until the 1960s.  The official word was that it never happened.  

Scene 7: Back to the vicarage.  The parents are there, still thinking that Sidney is responsible for Abigail's disappearance.  He rushes inside while Geordie gives them the news. 

Whoops, the Archdeacon is there, too, to assure Sidney that he'll be "presumed innocent." He assigns Sam from Scene 5 to be his watchdog.  


Sidney decides to let Watchdog Sam do the funeral, and Curate Leonard (Al Weaver, left) do the counseling of Abigail's friends. 

Scene 8:   Abigail's Dad also accused Gary (the teenager from Scene 4) of sexual assault, so Detective Geordie and Sidney interview him.  One night he drove her home from youth group.  Dad saw them, and called the police to have him arrested for assault!  But they were just friends.  Geordie doesn't believe that a boy and a girl can be just friends, but Sidney does.

Scene 9: Next they interview Abigail's Mom.  She didn't even know that Abigail kept a diary.  "Maybe it never existed." Dad comes in and yells at Vicar Sidney for "all the things you made her do."  "By the way," Detective Geordie asks, "Why did Abigail keep a chair lodged against her bedroom door, so no one could come in?" 

Scene 10:  Curate Leonard trying to hold a counseling session for Abigail's friends.  He doesn't relate to the kids very well.  Gary asks if he's a pansy.  "It doesn't  matter," Tommy (Alfie Field) exclaims. "We're all going to hell." He specifies "Abigail's in hell," for which Gary punches him in the nose.

When Vicar Sidney intervenes, Tommy explains: "It's my fault she's dead."  He came across her in a "dirty picture book," and knew that Daniel Marlowe took the photos.  So he confronted Daniel, told him that she was just 15, and he "blew his top."  And by the way, Abigail was pregnant.


Scene 11:
The police finally track down Daniel (Oliver Dimsdale) and arrest him.  He asks "A bribe won't be enough this time?", but then they tell him it's for murder!  You'd have to know that in earlier generations, when being gay was illegal, the police often took a bribe in exchange for not arresting you.

I'm out of space, so I'll stop the scene-by-scene there.  But in case you are wondering, the diary is real; the turpentine is an important clue; Daniel Marlowe didn't know that Abigail was 15, and he had nothing to do with her death (or her pregnancy, of course).  There are different people responsible for each.  I guessed one but not the other.

Coming Out: Detective Geordie finds out that Daniel is divorced and has no "ladyfriend," and there was the thing about the bribe.   He concludes that Daniel is a "pansy.": "Once you look, they're everywhere, crawling out of the bloody woodwork." Curate Leonard is listening, but pretends to be reading his book.

Meeting Leonard:  In the penultimate scene, Daniel (cleared of the charge) shows up early at the church, when no one is there but Leonard: "I have a lot to atone for.  I want to be a better man."  Leonard invites him to pray.  The end.  24 episodes to go; I imagine their relationship will blossom.  

Dramarama: On August 19, 1994, a Gay Kid in Escondido Didn't Come Out to His Friends

 


Hulu started Dramarama (2020) without my permission.  All I saw before it started was "It's 1984, and a group of nerds holds a party."  Presumably they start getting diced up by a Michael Myers clone.  But then I saw the first scene: a cute guy flexing in his underwear before a sexy picture of St. Sebastian.  Wait -- he's gay?  

There's also a "Game Over" poster behind him. Foreshadowing of the psycho-slashing to come?

Scene 1: The cute guy, Gene (Nick Pugliese), is interrupted by Mom, trying to convince him to go to church.  They mention the Rapture, so evangelical Protestant, and lighting candles, so Catholic.  The writers don't know which is which.   Plot dump: Rose's Going Away Party is this afternoon.

Scene 2: Establishing shots of Escondido, California, August 19, 1994.   We focus on a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic), various snacks, and teenage Rose (I assume) vacuuming in a disheveled wedding gown -- Miss Havisham, the jilted bride from Great Expectations.  She answers the door to Alice in Wonderland.  A come-as-your-favorite-literary-character costume going-away party.  I wonder who will die first.


Next, in character: Oscar (Nico Greetham) as Sherlock Holmes,  and a vampire (Mina Harker from Dracula).  They want to know where Gene is.  "He's been acting flakey."

Cut to Gene in the car, putting on his makeup and practicing: "I have something to tell you."  The guy's coming out! But you never came out to straight friends in 1994.  They would run away screaming or ask "Are you the boy or the girl?" 

Scene 3: Gene arrives as Dr. Jekyll. Rose announces the theme: it's a favorite Victorian literary character murder mystery costume party.  Oscar wants to know why Gene has been avoiding him.  So, a boyfriend?  Alice wants to know if he's finished Franny and Zooey yet.  Salinger -- so they read 20th century lit too.

 A scream!  Rose is lying on the kitchen floor, a murder victim!  (10 to 1 she is really dead).  They have to follow literary clues to determine the murderer.  One involves Sissy Jupe from Hard Times.  Oscar and Gene wrestle, tickle, and almost kiss, while the girls look on, annoyed.  


Scene 4: 
Rose comes back to life to answer the door.  It's JD (Zak Henri), delivering pizzas.  Also literary -- he guesses that Rose is the mad woman in the attic, from Jane Eyre.  They invite him in. Doesn't he have work to do?  He's a bad boy, criticizing Dickens and musical theater, using bad language, raiding the parents' liquor chest.

Plus last week he went to a movie with Gene and the Vampire, without inviting the others! They bristle at this "betrayal."  College exposition: Rose will be studying acting at NYU, Alice (Claire) theater at Pepperdine, the Vampire (Ally) opera at Oberlin, Oscar film at UCLA, and Gene cartooning at a community college.  Bad boy JD dropped out.

They play a game where you describe someone with one perfect word.  JD names Gene as "clandestine": he's always hiding something.  JD obviously knows, and is inviting Gene to come out.  They're all drama club kids; they'll be fine with it.

Scene 5: JD has to get back to work.  Gene walks him out.  He invites Gene to another party later, held by his cousin Sammy, who "thinks you're cool."  How many potential boyfriends does this guy have?  This murder mystery is supposed to be a sleepover, but Gene agrees.  I'm getting the impression that there will be no psycho-slasher. 

Back at the party, Oscar gets all snippy at Gene for sneaking off to a movie with another guy.  They complain about JD being a bad boy, and try to console Gene for being stuck in Escondido while they're off to fabulous artistic careers. After all, they didn't become friends because of their artistic interests, but because they're all highly devout Christians (three Catholics and a Lutheran). This riles Gene, who isn't sure that he believes in God anymore.  Does this mean that they can't be friends?  Definitely no psycho-slasher.  

I'll stop the scene-by-scene there, since nothing else happens.  The friends have heart-to-hearts, argue, insult each other, discuss whether or not God hates gay people, pray for each other, and have more heart-to-hearts for the next hour.  All you need to know is:

1. Oscar takes his shirt off.

2. Lots of "dark secrets" are revealed.  Not really very dark.

3. Gene tries the lame "I have a friend who's gay" coming out tactic.  He doesn't go any farther, but they all sort of know anyway.

4. The erotic tension between Gene and Oscar is never resolved.

5. Gene mentions planning to go out with Sammy (JD's cousin) to see a movie about a "desert queen."  No doubt Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, about a troupe of drag queens and a trans woman on tour in the Australian Outback.  Why doesn't he just say it?

My grade:  I don't know.  I fell asleep. 

Jun 7, 2022

Going to Movies in 1992: Does Broderick Take His Shirt Off? Does Stallone Get a Girlfriend?


Nazarenes aren't allowed to go to movies, so when I left the Nazarene Church in 1978, I was in a theater once or twice a week, seeing over 50 per year.  But when I moved to West Hollywood, movie-going was considered weird, and even disreputable:  
1. It meant venturing away from West Hollywood into the straight world, which we avoided whenever possible.
2. Two guys sitting next to each other in a movie theater would draw attention (straight guys sat with a seat between them). You want to get beat up? 
3. Almost every movie was loaded down with homophobic slurs or swishy stereotypes, or both. Why pay to be insulted?
4. Almost every movie emphasized boy-girl romance.  Who wanted to see that? 
 
We rented a lot of VHS tapes.  We went to stage shows, drag shows, book readings, and gay film festivals. but we saw movies in the theater maybe a month, when there was an exceptionally hot star who might take his shirt off, or when there were rumors of gay subtexts.  

In 1992, for example, I saw only 11 movies in the theater:

January: Kuffs, about a high school dropout who becomes a cop, because there were life-size cardboard images of Christian Slater in all of the stores, and he wasn't bad looking.  Unfortunately, he doesn't take his clothes off, and there is a heteronormative ending, with Christian married with children.  

February: Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot!, because it starred Sylvester Stallone and Estelle Getty (Sophia on The Golden Girls) as a tough cop and his mom solving a murder.  It's widely considered one of the worst films of all time, even by Stallone himself, but his character doesn't get a girlfriend, which in West Hollywood made the movie a winner.  


March:
My Cousin Vinny, because we heard that Ralph Macchio has a boyfriend, and indeed, the two New York college boys charged with murder in Alabama (Ralph, Michael Whitfield) can be read as a gay couple.  Of course, the actual stars are Joe Peschi as "my cousin Vinny" and Marisa Tomei as his girlfriend, but gay subtexts are gay subtexts.

April:  None.


May:
Encino Man, because it starred the hunky Brendan Fraser, and we heard that he had a gay-subtext bond with Sean Astin.  However, the caveman (Brendan) has a girlfriend, and when he's frozen in ice for 40,000 years and revived in modern Los Angeles, he mostly helps a current high schooler (Sean) win the Girl of His Dreams. With lots of homophobic slurs to boot. Ugh.

May (second movie of the month!): Sister Act, because it starred Whoopi Goldberg.  She plays a Las Vegas singer on the run from her murderous ex-boyfriend, who hides in a convent, and saves the nuns by revitalizing the choir.  They turn old girl-group classics into religious songs: "Nothing you can say will keep me away from my God..."  And of course there's no heterosexual romance in a convent.

June: None

July: Cool World, because it starred Brad Pitt, and the promos promised a hilarious comedy that mixed humans and toons, like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  It was actually forced, cynical, and unpleasant; plus there are two boy-girl human-toon romances.  Ugh!

August: Three Ninjas.  Gay men didn't usually go to kids' movies, for fear that some parent would accuse us of plotting to kidnap their kids.  I don't remember why we went to this one, but I remember being turned off by the attempts of one of the preteen ninjas to win the Girl of His Dreams.


September:
Out on a Limb, because the promo showed Matthew Broderick naked (a title placard covering his naughty bits).  But we see his bare butt in the movie. Celebrity nudity was vanishingly rare in the 1990s, so it was worth watching a confusing, tonally discordant caper film.


September (second movie of the month!):
School Ties: A huge array of hunkoids, including Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, and Anthony Rapp, in a plot about anti-Semitism in a posh private school in 1955.  No gay characters, of course, but in 1992 everyone assumed that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were lovers, and anti-Semitism could stand in for homophobia. 

October: None

November:  The Crying Game: the only movie we saw that year with a LGBT character, the depressed, miserable trans girl Dil (Jaye Davidson), who doesn't tell her boyfriend until they're ready for sex.  The big reveal -- she has a penis! -- causes him to throw up, and resulted in panicked transphobes fleeing from the theater.  But we didn't mind -- all LGBT people in movies at the time were depressed and miserable, shrieking serial killers, or both.  Representation is representation.


December:
Chaplin: A biopic of the famous silent-era comedian (Robert Downey Jr.).  I saw this on an airplane, and fell asleep through most of it, but I remember Charlie falling in love with the Girl of His Dreams, whom he tries to replace by marrying lots of other women.  Also Douglas Fairbanks is heterosexual; at the time I thought he was gay, but actually it was his son, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. 

Jun 6, 2022

"The Suicide Squad": Two Gay Hints, Two Hunks in their Underwear, and 3,234 Corpses

 Last night's movie night was The Suicide Squad (2021), in which incarcerated DC supervillains and serial killers are offered years off their sentences in exchange for performing a super-dangerous "suicide" mission: the small Latin American country of Corto Maltese has been taken over by a military dictator unfriendly to the U.S., so a U.S.-supported research facility called Jotunheim for some reason is in jeopardy.  Rather than let the research fall into enemy hands, the Suicide Squad must destroy Jotunheim.  

The suicide squad is killed within the first five minutes, mostly by the huge army that meets them, but one drowns, and Savant (Woody Harrelson), who has been set up as the focus character, gets his head exploded by the boss back at headquarters.  This was a very short movie!  Psych -- there's a second suicide squad.  The first, untrained and totally inept, was sent in as a distraction.  The second will go in secretly.  But "kill everyone you see."

It consists of:


1. Bloodsport (Idris Elba)
.  I don't know what his superpower is, but he has a dead wife and teenage daughter.

2. Peacemaker (John Cena, left).  A jerk with no superpowers but a nice physique.

3. King Shark (Sylvester Stallone, unrecognizable): A human-shark hybrid who is invincible, but has the habit of eating random people.






4. Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, left), 
who can kill people with multicolored interdimensional pustules that grow on his body.

5. Rat Catcher 2 (Dana Melchior), apparently the daughter of Rat Catcher 1, who can control rats -- very handy for destroying technology and killing people.








Before going to the facility, they have to rescue a survivor of the first squad, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, left), who has been captured.  So they kill almost everybody at his camp before discovering that he's actually been rescued by anti-dictator freedom fighters!

Another survivor of the first squad, effervescent, deranged Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is captured, dressed in a Cinderella outfit, and taken to the palace, where military dictator Silvio Luna (Juan Diego Botto) wants to date her.  They hang out and have sex (off camera), but Harley soon sours on the idea and kills him.  As well as about 300 palace guards and soldiers.

The facility contains a giant alien starfish-shaped being who can extrude small versions of itself that grab your face and kill you.  It can then control your actions.  It does this with around 3,000 townsfolk before the Suicide Squad subdues it.  Almost all of them die in the battle, or in a disagreement about whether to expose U.S. involvement in the starfish experiment.  

So it's basically two hours of watching people get killed.  I was not impressed.

Well, I did like four things about it:

1. Minimal heterosexual romance.  Nothing except for Harley dating General Luna.  One expects Rick Flagg to hook up with freedom fighter Soria (Alice Braga), but he doesn't.  

2. No naked ladies.  When the squad is told to track down General Luna at a "gentleman's club," I thought "Why does there always have to be a scene of naked ladies gyrating on poles?", but in fact the ladies are singing, not gyrating, and fully clothed.  And there are men and women both in the audience.  


3. Beefcake
.  Peacemaker walks around in his underwear, showing a blatant bulge.  General Luna is introduced climbing out of his bathtub in a Speedo.  

4. Gay references.  No one actually says the word, but at the gentlemen's club, among the men and women dancing together, two men are getting chummy.  I think it was Rick Flag cruising a local.  

Plus Polka Dot Man becomes distraught over the death of the driver, Malcolm.  "I liked him from the start, but I didn't say anything because...."  he begins, before being cut off (and later killed).  Sounds like he was about to reveal a same-sex crush.

Apparently this is not the first iteration of the Suicide Squad.  They have appeared in comics since 1987, and an earlier movie, called Suicide Squad without the definite article (2016), featured some of the same characters.  So no one is going to be canonically gay.  But for a comic book movie, gay hints are enough.

Twelve Forever: The First Gay Protagonist of Any American Children's Program

In Twelve Forever, a 12-year old girl named Reggie is terrified by the prospect of growing up, so she creates a fantasy world called Endless Island, and populates it with interesting characters like Flower Woman (with flowers for eyes), Brown Roger (a small, hairy thing), and Guy Pleasant (half rock star, half dog).


For antagonists, she conjures up the Butt Witch and her henchman Big Deal, who try to force her to grow up.  She convinces two of her real-life friends, Todd and Esther, to come along.









Sounds like H.R. Pufnstuf meets Peter Pan, except those islands were real.   I'm not so sure about Endless Island. It sounds very much like a psychotic delusion.

I became interested due to an episode in which the Butt Witch tries to break up the romance between two burly wrestlers, Mack and Beefhouse.  Two burly male wrestlers!

The other characters are completely nonchalant about their gender, saying things like "I can't wait to find my soulmate," and so on.

This is definitely a gay -positive show.  Reggie herself gets a crush on a girl named Connelly.

Unfortunately, Reggie is such a self-centered jerk that she's impossible to watch.  When Connelly displays interest, she makes an excuse and runs away.  Repeatedly.

Imagine: you're 12 years old, you find a girl you like, and she makes it very clear that she wants nothing to do with you.   How's that for a crushing childhood trauma?

Later, at the school dance (4 male-female couples and Reggie), Connelly shows up, and a flustered Reggie forces her friends to leave, even though they are having fun.

Isn't it always the way: you find a gay-positive character, and they're unpleasant and possiblypsychotic?

Oh,well, who am I to nit-pick?  This is the first gay protagonist of any American children's tv program, cause for celebration.



Jun 5, 2022

"The Conners": Gay Kid Argues with his Mom in this Update of Roseanne's Family


The iconic 1990s sitcom Roseanne (1988-1997) starred the iconic Roseanne as the matriarch of a working-class family in small-town Lanford, Illinois.  It featured an unusual number of gay characters and situations.  Even Roseanne's elderly mother comes out as a lesbian (and immediately finds a girlfriend).  Twenty years later, a revival was cut short after Roseanne was fired for making crazy racist remarks; her character was killed off, and a retooled The Connors is now in its fourth season.  Most of the original cast is still around, including Roseanne's husband Dan (John Goodman), sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), daughters Darlene (Sarah Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson), and son DJ (Michael Fishman).  I heard that Darlene's son Mark (Ames McNamara) is nonbinary, so I watched Season 4, Episode 10, in which they "celebrate Mark."


Scene 1:
  Eating out to celebrate Mark making the Dean's List at school.  My first thought: Dan and Darlene look shockingly old (John Goodman is 69, and Sara Gilbert 47, but I haven't seen them since the first show ended.) Dan was previously quite homophobic, but he's apparently mellowed. Mark isn't nonbinary, he's just a feminine gay boy. 

Also present are Mark's boyfriend Logan and an unidentified middle-aged guy (IMDB states that he's Jay R. Ferguson, left as "Ben."  Maybe Mark's Dad, so Darlene's ex-husband?).

Everyone wonders why Mark was getting Cs at his old school, but As at the ritzy magnet school.  He claims that Logan is inspiring him to study.  But when Aunt Becky (shockingly old) brings out the cake, he refuses to eat any.  Who refuses cake?  Suspicious!

Other people show up.  The young adult Harris (a girl) comes in, gives Mark a gift, yells at Darlene, and leaves (Darlene's daughter, maybe?).  Jackie (Roseanne's sister, looking the same as she did 20 years ago). has a broken ankle, but tries to hide it, because Neville's ex-wife is much younger.  I'm guessing Neville is her boyfriend or husband.


Neville (Nat Faxon)  and the ex-wife arrive to pick up Logan.  So Mark is dating the son of his great-aunt's boyfriend.  The interconnections are becoming annoying.

Scene 2:  The two daughters (Darlene and Becky), Aunt Jackie, and Dan at breakfast in the iconic Connor kitchen.  So the middle-aged daughters are still living at home?  Last night Mark couldn't sleep because of all the coffee he drank to stay awake studying, so he made a lasagne.  Suspicious, especially since he hates coffee.

Scene 3:  The iconic Connor living room.  Mom Darlene gets the truth out of Mark: he's been taking ADHD medication (a prescription stimulant), provided by his boyfriend Logan.  It's the only way he can study enough to succeed at the magnet school, get into a good college, and not be a failure like the rest of the family.  Darlene chaffs: "I didn't fail in life because I didn't take enough drugs.  I failed because I'm not very good at my profession and not particularly pleasant to be around."   She makes Mark dispose of the drugs.

Scene 4:  B plot: The doctor (Jared Farid Ward, top photo) is examining Aunt Jackie, while Becky throws herself at him.  He advises Jackie to stay off the ankle: "At your age, bones take a long time to heal."  At her age?  Jackie is devastated: she's never thought of herself as "old" before.  Laurie Metcalf is 66 years old.  I had a doctor tell me that I had to be careful running "at my age" when I was 50.  

Scene 5:  Darlene and Dan playing cards.  Sister Becky comes in and reveals Aunt Jackie's over-reaction to "at your age" and her crush on the doctor.  Recovering addicts aren't supposed to date for a year, but Becky claims that "doctors don't count."  Also, as a recovering addict, Becky knows that taking away your drugs doesn't work: there are always more.  They check Mark's backpack, and find more ADHD medication.

Scene 6: Mark and boyfriend Logan studying in his room. Mom  Darlene storms in, yells at Logan for providing, and kicks him out.  Mark yells: "I'm just trying to get a better life, so I don't end up like you."

Scene 7:  Becky and Harris (Darlene's estranged daughter?) researching the hot doctor to find out why he's single.  It never occurs to them for an instant that he might be gay, even though they have a gay brother/nephew.   Turns out that he is a Harry Potter fan, which turns Becky off.

Scene 8: Jackie overdoing the "old lady" bit with Neville (her younger boyfriend): "I'm decaying as we speak."  Neville: "You're not old, you're crazy."  

Scene 9: Dan and Darlene discuss Mark.  "He can't take the magnet school, so send him back to public school."  "But that would kill his future."  Umm...you can get into a good college from public school, you elitist snob!  


Scene 10: 
 Jackie's boyfriend Neville drops by and resolves the "old lady" issue: he likes them old.  

Scene 11: Mark has been trying to stay up all night studying on coffee instead of ADHD medication.  Darlene decides to send him back to public school.  "No!  You're dooming me to a life of struggling, like you!  I hate you!"  "Then I'm doing my job."  That was Roseanne's line.

Scene 12:  Dan and Becky investigate a mysterious noise in the camper, and find Harris (Darlene's daughter) living there. Her boyfriend kicked her out.


My Grade: 
Way too many characters to keep track of, and Mark is absurdly overreacting to being sent back to public school.  Besides, magnet schools aren't especially demanding; they just specialize in certain fields, like the arts or science.  But at least being gay is a non-issue. C

By the way, several regulars didn't appear in this episode, including Roseanne's son DJ (Michael Fishman, left), Harris's boyfriend Aldo (Tony Cavalero), and lots of miscellaneous wives, ex-wives, and kids.  27 regular and recurring characters!  

The Land of Ziggy Zaggy

 


When I was in kindergarten, first, and second grade, we lived in Racine, Wisconsin, 70 miles north of Chicago.   I have only a few memories from that period: going to the beach a few blocks from our house, going to the zoo, marrying the boy next door, my second grade teacher making me stand in the corner for refusing to square dance (she wouldn't believe that it was forbidden for Nazarenes, and at the age of 7 I was in no position to ask the preacher to telephone her).


And a very weird memory of my Dad being proud of me for watching a children's tv program.

Dad was in his late 20s, just out of the Navy, rather athletic, a stalwart Democrat and an avid Nazarene.  He worked on the assembly line at the J. I. Case Company, a job he would keep for the next 30 years.

The memory is vague:  Dad is sitting on the couch, half reading the newspaper, half snoozing, so he must have just gotten home from work, around 4:00 pm.  My brother and I are watching tv.  

Mom comes in from the kitchen and asks "What do you want to watch now?  Romper Room?"

"No," I say.  "The Land of Ziggy Zaggy."

Dad looks up.  "Ziggy Zaggy?  What kind of kookie show is that?"

Mom changes the channel, and we see a woman walking onto the stage, singing about the mystical land.

Dad laughs.  "Ok, I get it now!  You're starting early, just like your old dad!  A chip off the old block!  Come up here and sit by me."

I sit on the couch, and he puts his arm around me.  I'm thrilled.  Dad is usually kind of critical,but today I'm a chip off the old block!  I did something right, something that made him proud of me. But what?

50 years later, I don't remember anything about the show except for a woman singing an invitation to visit "The land of Ziggy Zaggy."  That title doesn't exist, but after a few searches on alternates (zaggo, zongi, zuggi), I found it:

It was a local Chicago children's program, The Land of Ziggy Zoggo. Also called The Nancy Berg Show, after the host.  Short lived, 1963-65.  We only moved to Racine in the summer of 1965, so I must have watched at the end of the run, just before I started kindergarten.

There's a full episode on youtube.  Very amateurish, painted backdrop for a set, only one performer.  Three sketches, about 5 minutes each.

1. Miss Nancy visits a Middle Eastern country, where she meets a Go-Go Genie (herself) selling magic carpets in a parody of talky used-car salespeople.  She buys the carpet, but it doesn't fly!  She criticizes herself for being conned, then kicks the carpet.  Now it works!  She then flies through the clouds while singing. 

2. The kimono-clad Miss Sukayaki (Nancy again), with a stereotyped "Ah so" accent, goofs on the  "ancient Japanese custom of flower arrangement." 

3. Miss Nancy flies a balloon to the African jungle to show film footage of various animals: a rhinocerous, a lion, a leopard.

No beefcake, no buddy-bonding, actually no male characters, but the exotic locations must have been appealing to me as a kindergartener.  And maybe the hint of social satire: you may get conned by a fast-talking salesperson.

But why was Dad so pleased?  Why was I "starting early" and a "chip off the block" for wanting to watch The Land of Ziggy Zoggo?




After watching the episode, I conclude that he was pushing heteronormativity at  me.  He assumed that, at the age of  4 1/2, I was crushing on Miss Nancy.  
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