Jul 30, 2022

Uncoupled: Neil Patrick Harris as a Depressed, Uncoupled Gay Man with Depressing Friends


Hookups are easy for gay men over 40, or over 50, or over 60: the twinks line up to get you into bed.  But relationships are a different story: everyone your age is partnered or happily aromantic, and the twinks don't want to partner with someone who talks about  how all telephones used to be landlines.  Or, so I've heard; I had no trouble whatever finding dates in my 40s and 50s.




That disconnect with my lived reality is one of the reasons that I disliked the Netflix series Uncoupled: I kept saying "It's not like that at all."

Another reason:  I can't stand Neil Patrick Harris (unless he's naked or in underwear).  His years as the absurdly hetero-horny Barney on How I Met Your Mother struck me as a betrayal; if the network won't allow you to play a gay character, at least play a straight guy who doesn't spend every waking moment thinking of boobs.  Harris also played "himself" as a horny straight guy in some of the Harold and Kumar movies, explaining that he just pretends to be gay to get more ladies. More betrayal

A third reason:  In Uncoupled, Michael is cisgender, masculine-presenting, and super-affluent, with a snazzy job selling high-end real estate, living in a fabulous apartment in Manhattan and going on fabulous cruises and ski-weekends. Sort of like Will from Will and Grace squared.  There is no homophobia anywhere, not even in a discussion of "the old days."   This denies the lived reality of most LGBTQ people, especially the feminine-presenting and people of color, who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, and face homophobic harassment and even violence every day.   

But I watched the first and last episode, and fast-forwarded in between.


The Setup: 
Michael's got a stereotyped sassy female bff and two retro-stereotype hand-on-hip "let's go, girls" gay friends, one of whom is dating a Cute Young Thing half his age (Gonzalo Aburto, top photo).  

Plus Michael has hot boyfriend, Colin (Tuc Watkins, who has a dozen beefcake photos online, but only this one can be "downloaded safely").

 Although they've been together for 17 years and New York has had same-sex marriage for 10 years, Michael and Tuc are not married; it seems odd, but maybe this is a 1990s project revamped for the 2020s.  

In the first episode, Michael and the bffs plan a fabulous surprise party for Colin's 50th birthday, attended by about 1000 Manhattan A-gays (and a lot of straight couples).  Whoops, Colin dumps him -- at the party, just before Michael has to make a celebratory speech!

What to do now?  The trailer promises wacky shenanigans, as Michael steps back into the dating pool in his mid-40s, after 17 years of monogamy.  His first Grindr hookup, with someone who lied on his profile (don't they all?).   A twink who turns out to be the son of a guy Michael dated in college.  "Someone from your generation" who turns out to be a 90-year old World War II veteran. These aren't plotlines from the show; I thought of them just now. If you want to hire me as a writer for Season 2, I can draw on some of the "dates from hell" on Tales of West Hollywood.

Handling the Breakup: Uncoupled actually contains no wacky dates.  Not much dating at all.  Instead Michael goes through the stages of grief, feeling resentment, betrayal, anger, self-pity, hopelessness, and resignation. He agonizes over what to do about their shared friends and the social occasions where they're bound to run into each other.  "And what if Colin finds someone new before I do?  I'll be humiliated forever!" (so, stay friends with him.  Maybe he'll invite you to "share" his new boyfriend).   

Finally, like gay men in a hundred movies and tv series before him, Michael finds salvation with a woman.  He doesn't turn straight, she just helps him psychologically as a fellow dump-ee, but thematically it's the same thing. Ugh.


Other soap opera antics
: There's a dispute about what to do with the apartment that Michael and Colin own together (a big deal -- it must be worth $2 million)/

Sassy BFF's son Kai (Jasai Chase Owens, left) tracks down his biological father.

Retro Stereotype #1 gets dumped when he makes a hookup date with a random guy right in front of his twink boyfriend, and has an existential crisis.

Retro Stereotype #2 has breast cancer, and an existential crisis (men get it, too, although his friends decide to cheer him up with transphobic jokes).

Spoiler alert:  The series (or season) ends with everyone going home after the lavish wedding of the Two Jonathans.  Retro Stereotypes #1 and #2 sit in the back of their limo, being depressed for different reasons.  Sassy BFF goes into her house, looks shocked, and yells "Oh, my God!"  I'm guessing someone is dead; primer for a second season?  

Finally, having resigned himself to being single/miserable forever, the continually depressed Michael returns to his apartment, only to find Colin there: "I think I made a mistake."  So they broke up just so they could get back together again.  Way to play the cliche!

My Grade: D


Jul 29, 2022

"Ultra Violet and Black Scorpion": Retro Teencom Selling Gay-as-Problem, Single-as-Miserable Myths

 


Ten years ago, Disney Channel teencoms were mostly about girls who wanted to become pop stars.  Now they're usually superheroes.  Next up: Ultra Violet & Black Scorpion: a Hispanic girl gets super powers from a magical luchador mask.  I watched Episode #7, which reputedly has a gay character.

Scene 1: A middle aged thug on a motorcycle steals a woman's purse.  Ultra Violet, who has violet hair and a violent luchadora mask, turns on her super-speed and retrieves the purse.  Fellow luchador superhero Black Scorpion (JR Villareal), who wears a scorpion mask and a muscle t-shirt,  apprehends the bad guy.

Angelic music plays as Black Scorpion recognizes the theft victim!  He sees her engagement ring, gets all flustered, drops his deep superhero voice, and lets the bad guy get away!  

Ultra Violet wants to know what's wrong.  "Nothing!" he sputters.  "I don't even know Lily."  He zaps away.


Scene 2:
 Family breakfast with Violet, Mom, Dad (Juan Alfonso), and Brother Santiago (Brandon Rossel, left).  

The top photo is a different Juan Alfonso, unless he's lost a lot of hair and gained a few pounds. 

Violet asks about Lily: she was Uncle Cruz/Black Scorpion's girlfriend, but he wasn't out as a superhero to her, and she couldn't deal with him constantly lying about his activities, so she dumped him.  

"That's why he's always so cranky," Violet deduces.  "He's single.  If we get him a new girlfriend, he'll be easier to live with!"

Brother Santiago suggests that maybe he likes being single, but the rest of the family shoots him down: "No, impossible!  To be single is constant misery, whereas people in relationships are in constant ecstasy."  That's so breathtakingly stupid, I can't even think of a response.  Mom and Dad demonstrate by smooching several times, causing the kids (and me) to become nauseous.

Scene 3: At school, Violet and bff Maya discuss finding Uncle Cruz a girlfriend/ constant ecstasy.  

Suddenly angelic music plays as a dreamy boy named Alex smiles at them.  "Did you see that?" BFF Maya exclaims.  "Alex totally has a crush on you.  You should go over and start a convo."  Violet dismisses her: "No, that's impossible."  Wait -- Violet and Maya are single.  Why aren't they living in constant misery?  Maybe they're too young -- the misery kicks in at age 30?

Scene 3: In class, the girls notice that Coach Park is female, single/miserable, extremely cranky, and a gym rat. Perfect for Uncle Cruz.  But how to get them together?  They ignore the possibility that she could be gay.

Scene 4: Home.  Mom mentions that she needs to find a substitute gym teacher. Hey, why not hire Uncle Cruz?  Then he'll be working with Coach Park all the time.  Cruz doesn't want to do it -- being a superhero luchador keeps him busy -- but Mom guilt-trips him into agreeing.  

Scene 5: In the school gym, Uncle Cruz is angrily coaching volleyball, and Coach Park is angrily inflating soccer balls.  "I can't stand to see him spend another moment as single/miserable," Violet exclaims.  "Let's introduce them."  But Uncle Cruz refuses to be introduced: "I hate meeting new people."

Scene 6: After class, Uncle Cruz is in the gym, eating a pizza pocket.  Maya thinks he looks ok, but Violet insists that he's miserable.  In other news, Maya has arranged for them to eat lunch at the table next to Alex from Scene 2, so it will be easier for Violet to move toward getting a boyfriend/constant ecstasy.

But Violet wants to continue matchmaking.  Turning into Ultra Violet, she moves around the "wet floor" signs to channel Coach Park into the gym, where Uncle Cruz is now playing basketball by himself.  Whoops, the basketball crashes into Coach Park's lunch! Uncle Cruz offers to buy her a new one, but she refuses and storms out.

Guidance Counselor Catalina saw them whole thing, and thinks it's hilarious: "Coach Park is so nasty, she deserved it."  They flirt, gaze into each other's eyes, eat empanadas.  Darn, I thought Cruz was going to end up happily single, to dispute the message that everyone must have a romantic partner.

Mom, who works at the school, spies on them.  She is delighted. Finally her brother Cruz will get a girlfriend/wife/constant ectasy!


Scene 7:
Home.  Violet isn't aware that Uncle Cruz is into Guidance Counselor Catalina, so she continues to strategize ways to push him and Coach Park together. while Brother Santiago tries to ignore her.  

Left: Jaylen Moore, who appears in two episodes as the villain Duplitio.  I thought this review was a little weak on beefcake.

Scene 8:  Violet's next plan: Give Coach Park flowers, and pretend they're from Uncle Cruz.  Meanwhile, Maya is happy because Alex from Scene 2 is sending her funny memes.  Wait -- I thought Maya wanted Alex for Violet.  Sounds like she now wants him for herself.

Mom runs into Uncle Cruz in the faculty lounge, and teases, giggles, and nearly swoons over his newfound girlfriend/ecstasy.  I heard enough of that growing up; every time I talked to a girl or mentioned a girl, my parents would high-five each other and congratulate me for finally understanding the Meaning of Life. 

Speak of the devil: Guidance Counselor Catalina comes in.  She flirts with Uncle Cruz; Mom starts planninng the seating arrangement for the wedding reception.

Then Coach Park comes in, outraged at Uncle Cruz's disgusting, insulting act of...um, sending her flowers? Cruz insists that he didn't do it, but Guidance Counselor Catalina thinks that he's romancing both of them and rushes out.  So, she thinks they have a monogamous relationship after one flirtation?  She's as bad as Mom, who is already researching preschools for their kids.


Scene 9: 
 Chasing Guidance Counselor Catalina into the hallway to explain, Uncle Cruz runs into Violet, who thinks that her matchmaking scheme worked.  He blows up at her: "Stop meddling in my life!" 

"But I just wanted you to stop being single/miserable and get a girlfriend/constant ecstasy!"  "Well, you succeeded at wrecking my one chance!"  Right, because he'll never meet another single heterosexual woman.  There are only two in the world.

Scene 10: In her room, Violet muses: "I'm the worst matchmaker ever. Now, because of me, Uncle Cruz will not get either of two single heterosexual women left in the world, and be single/miserable forever!"   

Maya counters: "What about you?  You're single and miserable, too.  Don't you want endless ecstasy?  I'm telling you, date Alex!  He's cute and smart and funny."

Violet: "It sounds like you have a crush on Alex.  That's ok, you take him."  

Maya agrees, but no weird matchmaking schemes, please: she'll just tell Alex that she likes him. 

Scene 11:  Uncle Cruz/Black Scorpion on patrol.  Ultra Violet zaps in, wanting to talk about him being single/miserable, but he doesn't want to.  He zaps home; Violet follows.  "What did I do wrong?" Violet whines.  "I just wanted to get you a date with Coach Park, so you wouldn't be single/miserable"  "But I'm not interested in Coach Park!"  Violet wonders why the person matters; won't any girl provide you with the constant ecstasy?  

He admits that he likes Guidance Counselor Catalina, but please don't try any weird matchmaking schemes.  

Scene 12: Violet doesn't listen.  The next morning she shows up at Catalina's office to do some before-class matchmaking.

Scene 13: In gym class, Violet asks if BFF Maya talked to Alex.  She did, and he definitely has boyfriend potential.  But not for her, because he's gay.  You have time.  Single/miserable won't kick in for at least a decade.  Meanwhile, Catalina asks Uncle Cruz out on a date.  The end.  Ugh.

Everyone Must Be Partnered:  The message that being single=misery and being partnered=constant ecstasy is odious and destructive, leading the unpartnered to depression, low self esteem, and panicked attempts to find someone, no matter what, and the partnered to think that there must be something wrong with their relationship when they're not in constant ecstasy. Guess what: both partnered and single people are happy sometimes and sad sometimes.  

The corollary, of course, is that everyone MUST have a partner.  But aromantic and asexual people exist, some people lose their partners, and some people can't find anyone that they want to partner with, yet manage to live happy, fulfilled lives.  No one disputes the myth except for Santiago, and he is immediately shot down.

Gay Characters;  Alex appears in one shot, has no lines, and exists only as an obstacle for Maya.  Totally retro. They had the same plot on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1972: "I'm not going to be dating your brother because...he's gay."

My Grade: F.

Jul 28, 2022

Going to Movies in 1981-82; Two Gay Kisses, One Homophobic Slur, A Fake Drag Queen, Tarzan, Conan, and Dolly Parton


1981-82, my senior year at Augustana College!  Time to decide what to do with a double major in English and Modern Languages.  My parents: go to work in the factory!  The Career Counseling Center: find a job in publishing!  My professors: no, you're smart, you should go to grad school!  

I applied for jobs at publishing companies, and got an interview at Hallmark Cards (we used to give or mail cards to commemorate special days).  And I applied to grad school:  English at Notre Dame and Indiana, Spanish at Tulane, and Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages at Chicago.  They all admitted me, but only Indiana University gave me a scholarship, so it was off to Bloomington.  

With all that activity, plus my job at the Student Union Snack Bar, my internship at a military-manual publishing company, Spanish Club, German Club, Writers' Club, the gym, an occasional class, and a very occasional hookup, you'd think that my movie-going would suffer.  But actually it was a banner year: 14 movies in theaters, many with gay characters and themes.



August:
 Tarzan, the Ape Man: Heavily promoted due to marble-statue Miles O'Keeffe, who doesn't have any lines.  He just glowers, smoulders, flexes, and has sex with Bo Derek. 

August: An American Werewolf in London. College students Griffin Dunne and David Naughton (sigh) are attacked by a werewolf on the Scottish moors.  Griffin dies -- but returns in increasingly decayed states.  David survives -- for awhile, anyway, to meet the Girl of His Dreams and give us some glimpses of his butt and penis.  In 1981, we considered his infamous homophobic slur,  "Prince Charles is a faggot!", a triumph.  LGBT people were mentioned in a big screen!

September: None.

October: Shock Treatment, reputedly the "sequel" to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but with none of the same characters, no gay references, and a supremely heterosexist plotline.  Still, I loved the (accidental) evocation of life as tv .  And the songs, especially the beefcake potential of Janet's "Looking for Trade."   I saw it five times (this was before you could buy movies on VHS or DVD to keep, so once it left the theater, it was gone for good).

November: Ragtime.  I read the original novel because everyone in the English Department told me that science fiction and fantasy were trash; I had to read "serious literature," by which they meant Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, John Cheever, John Updike,  and E. L. Doctorow.  No gay characters in this evocation of the social problems of the early 20th century.

December: Ghost Story. Elderly New England Ivy-Leaguers played by Hollywood legends like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astaire, and their sons, are haunted by the ghost of a young women they killed 50 years before. Ponderous, incoherent storytelling, but the homophobia of the original novel is gone, and there is a lot of budy bonding.   

January: None


February:
Making Love.  In Rock Island, the only promotion we received was this poster of the three stars naked, implying that Kate Jackson is cheating on her husband (Michael Ontkean) with Harry Hamlin.  My ex-boyfriend Fred called to tell me that it was really about Ontkean coming out; after some hand-wringing, sobbing, and Gay 101 lectures, Kate is ok with it.  Being highly closeted, I drove to a theater in Iowa City, 45 miles away, so no one would recognize me. 

March: Fitzcarraldo: Klaus Kinski builds an opera house in Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and has sex with his girlfriend.

March: Deathtrap, a murder mystery, because it starred muscular Superman Christopher Reeve.  I didn't know the plot twist: Christopher and Michael Caine's character are boyfriends!  When they kissed, the entire audience, including me, gasped in astonishment, and one guy yelled "They're fags?  What the f____!"  


April:
Victor/Victoria: I went in knowing that this one was about "a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman" in 1930s Paris, with a positively portrayed gay mentor (Robert Preston) who fields the standard Gay 101 questions.  Although he and Alex Karras are shown in bed in the most un-romantic way possible, they are shown in bed. Gay men have sex -- a startling revelation in the days of frilly little lacy things.   

May: Conan the Barbarian.  Sword-and-Sorcery was everywhere in the early 1980s: He-Man ruled Saturday mornings, Dungeons and Dragons was causing a conservative panic, and the Robert E. Howard Conan stories, originally published in the 1930s, were being revisited in both Ballantine paperbacks and Marvel comics.  All we needed was a flexing Schwarzenegger (top photo) to bring the mighty-thewed  hero to the big screen.


June:
The Chosen, because among the "serious literature" I read to rid myself of the science fiction/fantasy habit was Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, about a boy torn between his artistic talent and his conservative Jewish heritage.  I could relate.  Here Orthodox Reuven (somebody I've never heard of, buried far down the cast list) and Hasidic David (Robby Benson, sigh!) have a buddy-bonding romance so obvious that it brought tears to my eyes.  



June:
Poltergeist:  suburban nuclear family harassed by evil ghosts: "They're he---ere."  Notable for Zelda Rubenstein, who would star in safe-sex ads in gay communities, as a Southern-fried psychic.

June: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I heard that "Chekov is tortured," so I imagined a BDSM scene, with  shirtless Walter Koenig tied up and struggling like Bomba the Jungle Boy.  Hot!  The torture actually involved an ear-worm.   

July: The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasDolly Parton as a sassy brothel owner.  No gay content, but you do get to see the entire Texas Aggie football team naked.

Jul 27, 2022

More Beefcake Photos of Tony Dow

Tony Dow (1945-) who played big brother Wally on the iconic 1950s sitcom Leave It to Beaver, was one of the few teen idols of the period to regularly be photographed shirtless.  He was already an athlete, a Junior Olympics diver, when he was cast, and during the five years of Beaver, he just kept bulking up.  He never appeared shirtless on the show itself, but he gladly obliged the teen magazines.

Afterwards he continued to act and direct, although he remained most famous for countless parodies of Wally and the Beaver.

Later in life he pursued his passion for art, becoming an accomplished sculptor.  He specializes in both cityscapes and the human form.  Here's The Diver in bronze.

I thought I had seen all of the beefcake photos of the young Tony Dow, but thanks to the exhaustive searches on Pinterest, the internet has yielded some more.









Same swimming trunks as in the first photo, but an exterior by the pool.

















His hair is different; this is another day.

Is that a bulge?
















A younger version.














Shirtless interior, a bit older.  He really liked the color white.
















This is a different pair of white shorts.  He must have bought them in bulk.

 I wish I knew who the cute friend was. They're both bulging a bit.

See also: Tony Dow

Jul 26, 2022

Going to Movies in 1980-81: Tim Curry Plays Straight, George Hamilton Plays Gay, Dudley Moore Plays Drunk, and Peter Ustinov Plays Chinese

 


1980-81: My junior year at Augustana. I'm working in the Student Union Snack Bar, changing my major from English to Modern Languages after some kerfuffles in Writers' Club, and taking classes in every language that Augustana College offers (Spanish, French, German, Latin, and Greek the same quarter!).  I travel to Indiana twice, Iceland once, and spend the summer in Des Moines, where I go to my first Gay Rights March (back when they were really about gay rights). Not much dating -- no out gay men at Augustana, that I could find --but I still went to movies quite often, making up for the anti-movie Nazarene Church of my childhood: 17 in theaters, not counting classics at Film Club and two-three year old blockbusters in the Student Union.


August: 
Xanadu.  They thought disco would last forever, but it was already over, so there's already a nostalgic tint to this movie.  Michael Beck opens a roller-disco nightclub with help of legendary dancer Gene Kelly!  Plus he falls in love with Kira, the Muse of Dance (Olivia Newton-John).  Just skip the movie and listen to the soundtrack, and think of a college boy who had never been to a place where gay people can live openly, without fear:

A place where nobody dared to go, the love that we came to know. They call it Xanadu

September: The Gods Must Be Crazy.  A Coke bottle tossed from an airplane causes havoc in an isolated Bushman (now San) community, so the leader, Xi (Nǃxau ǂToma), sets out to find the gods and return their "gift."  He's never seen white people before, so obviously they are the gods.  And crazy!  Xi has to dress in drag to escape an enemy army, and if you look closely, in one scene you can see some penis.


October:
Times Square: Tim Curry, who played Frank-n-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was reputedly the star, so I assumed it would have some gay content.  Not.  Two teen girls break out of a mental hospital, hang out in Time Square, and start a punk band. Radio dj Tim Curry dates one of them. No one does drag.

November: None




December:
Flash Gordon: an evocation of the old comic strip and movie-serial series, with Sam Jones as the football star-turned-space-hero, who rescues the Girl from "Yellow Peril" stereotype Ming the Merciless.  

December: Popeye.  Audiences expected the Popeye-vs-Bluto cartoons, but instead got an evocation of the 1930s comic strip, with Olive Oyl's brother Caster, suitor Ham Gravy, and "fly in my soup" Geezil.  No King Blozo or Oscar?  I loved the quirky, doomed town of Sweethaven: "God must love us. Why else would he have stranded us here?"  Granted, the story falls apart toward the end.

December: 9 to 5.  Three secretaries accidentally get revenge on their sexist-jerk boss.  Check out the vast office space: no cubicles, just rows of desks, and not a computer in sight.  

January: None


February:
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen: the Chinese-proverb-spouting detective was always played by a white guy in inscrutable makeup, although a Chinese-American actor, Victor Sen Yung, played the modern (and hunky) Number #1 Son.  True to form, this homage stars Peter Ustinov as the detective and Richard Hatch as his grandson and sleuthing partner. 

March: None

April: Atlantic City stars Susan Sarandon, who played Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so naturally I assumed that there would be gay content.  Nope.  It's a crime drama with gangsters, cocaine, and a flight to Paris.

April: Excalibur.  The 10-minute long trailer played excessively that spring, giving you every detail of the plot, plus a famous exchange between Merlin and Morgana Le Fay about love, sex, and power.

May: Polyester.  John Waters' iconic gross-out movie starring drag queen Divine. I know I saw it, but the plot doesn't sound familiar at all.  Maybe I'm mixing it up with Pink Flamingos.

June: Clash of the Titans.  Harry Hamlin (top photo) as Perseus, who must slay a sea monster and Medusa to win the Princess.  A heterosexist fable that squishes Greek mythology, but who cared?  Harry Hamlin was hot.  

June: Dragonslayer: En route to slay a dragon, Peter MacNichol falls in love with a boy!  Psych -- she's actually a girl in male drag, as in a Shakespearean play.  So no one is actually gay, and the audience doesn't have to run screaming from the theater.

July: Arthur: A critically-acclaimed, rave-reviewed movie about a rich, drunk guy (Dudley Moore) who falls in love with the working-class Liza Minelli.  I couldn't see the point, although I did like the theme song, "When you get caught between the Moon and New York City."

July: Zorro, the Gay Blade.  In 1981, you took gay representation where you could find it, even in Colonial California.   Zorro's twin brother, Bunny Wigglesworth (George Hamilton), was certainly a swishy stereotype, but no one recoiled in horror and disgust.  In fact, he saved the day.  I could relate to the scenes in which Swishy Brother had to pretend to be Zorro (also George Hamilton) and romance a woman: "We could...go shopping.  There's a new shipment of silk..."  

Jul 25, 2022

"Appare Ranman": A Male Pippi Longstocking and His Boyfriend in a Steampunk Auto Race


While sifting through the dozens of anime that suddenly popped up on Hulu, looking for one that doesn't feature a boy and a girl in love, I am drawn to Appare-Ranman ("Innocent Appare"), for reasons that will become clear in a moment...

Scene 1:  Los Angeles, a steampunk late 19th century.  The Panama Canal has already been completed, and motorcars are advanced enough for the Trans-America Wild Race.  The first day is just a pre-race, with a $10,000 prize.  Weird Wacky-Races-style cars line up, with drivers including a spoiled rich dude, a little girl, and a road warrior.  Young Samurai Kosame (voiced by Seiichiro Yamashita) criticizes Appare (Natsuki Hanae) for not having their car finished.


Wait -- Kosame refers to Appare with he/him pronouns.  He is voiced by men, Natsuki Hanae (top photo) in Japanese and Lee George in English.  But he definitely presents as a girl: long red hair jutting out from his head, like Pippi Longstocking; lipstick; a pink smock with a huge peppermint bow in back.  








Their team includes Hototo, a Native American boy with long green hair and a bare midriff.  He also seems to be presenting as a girl.   What's with all the gender-bending?  Is anyone going to comment on it?

The repairs are finished.  Appare jumps into the driver's seat, yells "Hitch up your loincloth, Kosame!" and they're off!   If you hitched up your loincloth, your penis would be visible.  Is that a sexual reference?

They race through the streets of Los Angeles, which have not been cleared of pedestrians or streetcars.  Several near-collisions. 

Scene 2:  A year earlier, Fukushita Prefecture.  Samurai Kosame is teaching a martial-arts class at the dojo when his sister arrives with an urgent message: Lord Kuroda has summoned him!  It seems that Appare, the "second son" of the Sorano Family, is causing a ruckus with his wild steampunk experiments.  Since they are about the same age (19), and Appare has studied at the dojo, Lord Kuroda makes Kosame his overseer.  "No! No!  He's crazy!"  "I have spoken."

"But he's been arrested for vandalism," Lord Kuroda continues, "And accidently put into the cell with the hardened criminals.  If he is killed, the problem is solved." 

Cut to Appare in a jail cell,  planning an experiment while the other prisoners growl at him.  He's not socially adept; "I don't say hello.  Waste of time."  They start to attack, but he casually picks the lock and goes home. His father yells at him for being disrespectful and not doing any work.

Scene 3: Kosame reports back to Lord Kuroda that Appare broke out of jail.  "Sputter, sputter!  That's a serious offense! Track him down!"  The guards rush off.   But if he's arrested again, he'll be executed!

Kosame grabs his katana and rushes to Appare's family home.  Yep, he's in his storehouse out back: a huge space full of plans, diagrams, and various inventions, like an exploding robot drone.  "There are guards coming to execute you.  If you go back to jail and apologize, maybe Lord Kuroda will let you live!"  "Naw -- jail is no fun."  How nonchalant can you get?  

Ok, how about this tactic: "I am your overseer.  I will be executed, too, and I have an unmarried sister and elderly father to take care of.  And my father has arranged a marriage for me.  My future wife will be a widow!"

Scene 4: Appare still won't turn himself in, but he leads Kosame through a trap door to a cave, where his newly-designed steampunk steamship is docked.  "You built all of this?  Why not devote your energy to helping your brother and father?"  I can relate.  I spent my childhood and teen years being pushed into a heterosexist "job-house-wife-kids" trajectory.

Appare: "I thought you were different, but you're just like the others. I'm leaving.  Go away." 

Just then the guards storm in.  Kosame tries to appease them: "I think I can convince him to turn himself in."  But Appare is already off!  Kosame jumps into the steamship to try to convince him to return.  They struggle; the ship hits a rock, and flounders!

Scene 5:  Stuck in a floundered ship in the middle of the ocean!  "If you were planning to leave, why didn't you pack food and water?"  "I packed everything I needed -- charts, plans, technical manuals."  Not very practical, are you, kid?

Appare explains: "Everything is connected.  This ocean is connected to other places, to the stars, to the moon. I'm going to be the first person to see the far side of the moon."  Mystical, but it doesn't solve the food and water problem.

After several days, they're awaiting their deaths, when they are rescued by an American steamship.   Kosame has to mop for his passage, while Appare designs a more efficient engine.  Finally they arrive in Los Angeles, where steampunk marvels are everywhere.  Appare is delighted. The end.



Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters: Appare doesn't display any heterosexual interest in this episode.  I understand that he and Kosame are shipped in fandom.  Two young women among the racers could be a couple.  

Gender-Bending: Not explained.  

My Grade:  Auto-races across the 19th century American desert sound boring, but the back story was interesting.  Appare is certainly a unique character.  But if he meets the Girl of His Dreams, I'm leaving.

Update: Several episodes have gay subtexts that move very close to text, especially the last, where the two decide to stay together after the adventure ends.

Jul 24, 2022

Going to Movies in 1998-99: Doomed Gay Relationships, Swishy Retro Stereotypes, Suicide, and Mark-Paul Goesselaer

 


In 1998, I was living in an apartment in the East Village, with a two-hour commute three days a week to Stony Brook University on Long Island, where I was enrolled in yet another graduate program (if you've been keeping track, my fourth).  With commuting, taking classes, teaching classes, and the infinite activity of Manhattan, plus the new freedom to buy movies to watch at home, going to movie theaters was a rather low priority.  I only saw twelve, unless my memory is faulty and I saw them on DVD.

August: Dead Man on Campus: two college roommates, a stick-in-the-mud (Tom Everett Scott) and an operator (Mark-Paul Goesselaer of Saved by the Bell) try to find a third roommate who will commit suicide and get them straight As for the semester.  Notable for a scene about 1/2 way through where Mark-Paul brings a girl to the room.  It's dark, and he's not the focus of the scene, but if you look closely, you can see his penis rising to full attention under the covers. 


August:
54: An homage to the infamous disco-era nightclub, with Ryan Philippe as a poor-but-honest (and straight) boy awed by the glitter, and Mike Myers as club owner Steve Rubell, here painted as predatory and doomed.  The director's cut, released 10 years later, makes Ryan bisexual and tones down the homophobia.  

September: None


October:
Pleasantville: Tobey Maguire (four years before I walked out on his Spiderman movie) and his sister are zapped into a black-and-white 1950s sitcom world. While introducing the residents to non-1950s innovations like modern art and sex, he meets the Girl of His Dreams.

November: Gods and Monsters.  The aging James Whale (Ian McClellan), director of those 1930s Frankenstein movies, tries to seduce a straight boy, fails, and kills himself.  Gay men are all sexual predators, got it.  Plot twist: turns out that Whale planned the seduction with the hope that the straight boy would panic and kill him.  Gay men are all suicidal, got it.  What did you expect in 1998?

November: Velvet Goldmine: A musical about the 1970s glam punk scene, featuring androgynous Brian Slade (Ewan McGregor), who is bisexual and has a destructive  relationship with a fellow rock star.  Gay relationships are by definition destructive.  What did you expect in 1998? 


December:
The Faculty: Invasion of the Body Snatchers in high school Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood discover that their teachers are being controlled by aliens. They save the day, and meet the Girls of their Dreams.

At about this time, in the early days of the internet, someone began posting an archive online with dozens of photos of Josh Hartnett and gushing articles telling us how wonderful he was.  Like "He is so strong!  He can do, like 20 push-ups without stopping!"  Big deal, my personal best is 43.

January: None

February: 8mm: Private investigator Nicholas Cage exploits the sleazy world of fetish films, including snuff.  I figured that there would be gay characters, but there weren't.


March:
Cruel Intentions. Popular teens have fun destroying their classmate's lives.  Closeted football player Greg (Eric Mabius) has been having sex with uber-swishy hustler Blaine (Joshua Jackson), who does his nails while getting a blow job.  When they try to blackmail Greg (yes, gay blackmail is a thing in this movie), he panicks and throws out all of his Judy Garland records (yes, all gay men are fans of Judy Garland, even those born 10 years after her death).  Horribly retro-homophobic, even in 1999.

March: The Matrix.  Keanu Reaves discovers that this world is a fake.  And meets a girl.

April: Go:  Three interconnected couples in a story involving Christmas, Ecstasy,  and police stings.  One of the couples is gay (Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf) and don't die at the end. 


May:
The Mummy, because Brendan Fraser (sigh).  Who cares if he doesn't take off his shirt, and gets the Girl.  And if the plot is really dumb.  And if Google lies and tells you that it's a .jpg, but it's really a .jfif.  Twice!

May: The Phantom Menace.  I think this is the one that introduces Anacin Skywalker, the tyke who will grow up to become Darth Vader and bad-parent Luke and Leia.  Maybe I saw it on DVD later.

I spent the summer of 1999 in Paris, and naturally didn't go to many movies.  

June: None

July: None

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