Aug 20, 2022

Searching for Gay Stories in "School Tales", a Horror Anthology Set in a Thai High School


School Tales, on Netflix, is a Thai horror anthology series based on graphic novels.  Each episode is directed by a different big name in Thai cinema.  Thailand is relatively gay-friendly, and BL stories (about two boys in love) are common, so no doubt there will be gay characters.  I'll try the first episode, "7:00 am."

IMDB doesn't say which actor starred in which episode, and the closing credits are in Thai only, so the illustrations are anyone in the cast with beefcake photos.

Scene1: 7:55 am:  A teenage boy runs through the school hall, being stopped and ridiculed by bullies.  He stops and approaches a classmate: "I couldn't find the book you mentioned." A magical grimoire?   

He runs into a classroom, looks at a textbook title on the chalkboard (Society and Government), and franticlaly sorts through his backpack.  But it's too late: the sky darkens, and time stops.  A female ghost flies of the wall and grabs him!

Scene 2: A male student tells us that the Q App is a place where "you can be who you want to be," with "friends who understand."  Sounds like a gay kid looking for a safe space.  He goes into the classroom, photographs the book title on the chalkboard, and uploads it to the app.

Plot dump: Every morning at 7:00 am, the title of a book appears on the chalkboard.  Q comes in early, photographs it, and sends it to the students.  They have to present the book by 8:00 am.  If they don't, one of them will get grabbed, and the memory of him erased.

Scene 3: Class begins.  The teacher, calling role, comes to Wittaya, the boy who was grabbed earlier.  "That's odd -- there is no such student in my class."  So do his parents wonder why they have a bedroom furnished for a teenager and lots of pictures of a boy they don't know?  

After class, the students are sitting around, trying to figure out what to do about their curse.  Sure, Q is performing a valuable service, but what if he oversleeps or is sick one day?  So they know about the disappearances, just not who the students were?   Would anyone mind taking over his duty?  They all refuse, and Q gets upset and storms out.  

A student follows him out.  A boyfriend, maybe?  No such luck: he asks Q to photograph the book title earlier, because he has to leave at 6:30 and can't look for it at 7:00. 

Uh-oh, a girl comes to the rescue.  Kind, gentle, nurturing girls and boorish, bullying boys.  I'm in a 1980s nerd comedy!

Scene 4:  It's 7:00 am, but instead of texting the title, Q calmly sits down to breakfast in the school courtyard.  The boys start frantically cyber-bullying: "Where are you?  Why are you so late? I have to leave for school soon!"  The kind, nurturing Girl texts: "I'm worried about you."  Ugh!  I'm done.  

Maybe the next episode: "A female student puts a curse on her rival."  No.  "The most popular girl in school..."  No.  "A female student is bullied..." No.  "A bullied boy makes a deal with a ghost."  Ok.

Scene 1:
An abandoned building behind the school.  A boy named Korn is being beat up by three bullies, two boys and a girl.  They order him to let them copy his answers on the upcoming exam.  He refuses; they pummel him.  That's it?  When I was in school, kids copied my answers all the time, without asking permission first.  

The narrator tells us that you have to go to the abandoned infirmary and sit in a wheelchair.  Then the ghost of the school nurse will appear and grant you a wish.

Scene 2:  Outside the school, students are discussing the upcoming exams, playing video games, texting each other, and being bullied.  Korn, still bandaged from his last pummeling, gets pummeled again, plus his homework tossed into a puddle.  The main bullies, Jack and Mor, laugh at him and call him a sissy.  

Scene 3: Lunchtime.  Korn tries to sit with two boys, but they block him out and laugh at him.  Then some younger kids mock him.   Why is Korn universally despised? 

He sits by himself. More bullies drop by to insult him.   I can't take any more of this.  I'm out.

"A pair of mischievous students look into the mystery of the headless teacher."  School Tales, this is your last chance!

Scene 1: 
A panicking boy runs across the deserted campus, into the school, and into the library, screaming "Help!"  He tries to hide, but something grabs him!

Psych!  It was just some bullies, who tie him up so they can copy his homework.  

At lunch, a boy is terrified to see two legs coming at him, but it turns out to be a grotesque teacher with a discipline cane, who terrorizes the lunch ladies about money they owe her.  She licks her entire hand like a dog to get it wet enough to turn the pages of her ledger.  Nauseating! 

Grotesque Teacher rushes out into the school yard, tears down pictures that criticize her, and gets a faceful of powder.  She captures the two boys responsible, Ping and Tim, and canes them.

I'm out of space, and this is too disgusting to watch, so I'll just fast-forward to see if the boys have a BL or gay-subtext romance.

In the shower, romantic music plays as Ping and Tim lean forward for a kiss.  But before they get there,  Tim pushes Ping away, yells "Why did you try to kiss me?", and "If you don't help me, I'll tell everyone!"  So not only are they not a gay couple, Tim is actively homophobic.  No more physical contact as they help Grotesque Teacher find her missing head.

My grade: F.

Aug 16, 2022

"13: The Musical": A Pint-Sized "Will and Grace" or a Grade School "High School Musical"?

 13: The Musical, now streaming on Netflix, sounds like Trevor: The Musical and Better Nate Than Never: gay kids facing homophobic harassment, but finding a safe place in musical theater.  I'll stream it, at least until I find out if the central character is gay.

Scene 1: 20% of the population of Manhattan is Jewish, and in some suburbs, it's over 90%.  Immersed in this culture, 12-year old Evan (Eli Golden, below) blissfully practices for his bar mitzvah.  Rabbi Shapiro (Josh Peck) criticizes his Hebrew pronunciation with a joke from the 1990s: "It's God.  He wants his language back."  Jerk!  

They discuss the horror about to befall Evan: his parents are divorcing, and he's moving with his mother to...ugh...Indiana, where Jews are as rare as Democrats. 

 How can he have a killer party, when he doesn't know anyone there, and anyone he meets is bound to be anti-Semitic?  There are 17,900 Jews in Indianapolis alone, dude.

Scene 2: 
 Evan and his crew sing about how he was an A-list cool kid, planning a huge bar mitzvah blowout, but then...plop, Dad dumps Mom, and Mom drags him away to...ugh...Indiana.  Why can't he live with Dad?  At least until after his bar mitzvah?  

Dad (Peter Herman, top photo) appears at the synagogue to say goodbye.  Evan does the "I hate you!" bit and runs away.  

Hey, Mom is Debra Messing, the gay guy's female life partner on Will and Grace.  I wonder if she's leaving Will, too,

Scene 3:  A cow moos as they enter Walkerton, Indiana, population 2,234, a standard stereotyped small town, the way people who've never been to one imagine it.  Grandma (Rhea Pearlman!) does the cool grandma thing while Mom remembers her failed writing career.  Dad calls; Evan ignores him.

Scene 4: Morning. Mom tells Grandma about the misery of the last year, with "lawyers and therapists and carbs."  People break up -- get over it.  Evan comes in, griping about the paucity of Jews in town, and how can he have a Bar Mitzvah when the nearest temple is 2000 miles away? (um...there are synagogues in Indianapolis, South Bend, Bloomington, and Terre Haute).  

Then a 12-year old girl, Patrice, arrives.  She better not be the Girl of Evan's Dreams, or I'm leaving.  He doesn't have a jaw-dropping hormone-oozing moment, but you never know.

Scene 5: Patrice is all liberal, into environmentalism and Sylvia Plath.  She introduces Evan to Archie, who uses a wheelchair and is heterosexual, in love with it-girl Kendra.

Then Patrice and Evan sing about the town, "the lamest place in the world -- but much more interesting, now that you're here."   Darn, they're a romantic couple!  Why couldn't Grandma have introduced Evan to a boy?  Well, maybe there will be some gay kids at school.

Scene 6:  School.  We're introduced to the romantic intrigues of this very diverse small-town Indiana community. Mean Girl Lucy (Asian) and Sidekick Kendra (Hispanic) both likes Brett (black), but he just likes Kendra. In fact, he's been dreaming of kissing her all summer.  

Their gang also includes three guys (Hispanic, white, and black) and three girls (Hispanic, white, and black).  They sing about how much they missed each other over the summer.  Small town -- didn't they see each other every day?

Scene 7:  Lunch.  Evan tells the cool-kid gang about his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  They don't know what that is, so Mean Girl Lucy gives an anti-Semitic explanation.  "No!" Evan exclaims.  "It's a big party, with a DJ and dancing."  Isn't there, like a religious ceremony involved? 

Uh-oh, the gang hates Patrice!  "She thinks she's better than everyone else, because she composts and doesn't use straws."  And Patrice hates them.  She has her own outcast gang, Archie (the one who uses a wheelchair) and a nonbinary person named Zee.  So the conflict will be Evan's gang vs. his girlfriend, like in "High School Musical"?

Meanwhile, at home, Grandma pressures Mom to return to her failed writing career.  "But what can I write about?  I've hit rock bottom.  My life couldn't possibly get any worse."  You have a nice place to live, enough food, and someone who is paying all of your expenses and not pressuring you to find a job..  I'd call that a sweet life.

Scene 8:
Sports practice.  The cheerleaders, all girls,  discuss Kendra's upcoming kiss with Brett.  "You only get one shot at a first kiss.  Do it wrong, and your social life is over forever.  No one will ever want to date you, or be your friend." Lucy sings about how she is going to betray her bff and kiss Brett first.  Then she'll have him!  Um...girlfriend, you're allowed to kiss several people.

Left: Josh Peck, best known for the Nickelodeon teencom Drake and Josh, plays the rabbi.

Scene 9: Breakfast.  Mom is a terrible cook.  Evan and Patrice have broken up. Dad calls; Evan ghosts him.

Evan goes off to play baseball with the cool kids -- boys only, because of course no girl is into sports. Lots of sexist stereotypes.

Meanwhile, Archie complains to bff Patrice about the upcoming Kendra-Brett kiss: "If they kiss, I'll never get Kendra, and my life will be meaningless forever." Maybe date someone else?

Scene 10: Evan and Brett playing basketball by themselves.  Could they have a gay-subtext buddy-bond?  No, Brett is just being nice to Evan so he'll get to play the guitar at his Bar Mitzvah.  He's also a song writer.  His repertoire includes "Kendra," "Hey, Kendra," and "Is Kendra Home?"  Evan agrees to find a place for Brett to kiss Kendra.  

The other cool boys discuss the movie Bloodmaster.  "Our parents will never let us see it!" But, Evan sings, it's the perfect place for a first kiss!  They just need to sneak in. 

Complication:  Lucy drags Evan aside and threatens him: make sure that Brett and Kendra don't kiss, or I'll tell everyone to stay away from your Bar Mitzvah!  

I'm done.  I'll just go through on fast-forward, to see if there's any LGBTQ representation.  At all.

.  Zee appears in two more scenes, but never is referred to with they/them pronouns, so maybe they're just androgynous.  Some of the cool boys don't get girls, but there is no indication that they like boys; they're just too deeply invested in the Brett-Kendra thing to worry about their own romances.

What about Evan?  In the stage musical, he kisses Patrice.  Here he doesn't.   You could still, possibly, read Evan as a gay kid, and Patrice as his bff, Grace to his Will.  It's a stretch, but possible.

Aug 15, 2022

Going to Movies in the Spring of 1997: Brendan Fraser Swings, Chris O'Donnell Bulges, Devon Sawa Goes Wild, and There's a Gay Kiss

 In the spring of 1997, I was living in San Francisco, Gay Heaven: bohemian, bizarre, frightfully expensive, and a big responsibility.  I was the representative to thousands of gay men still stuck in homophobic small towns, dreaming of freedom, so every moment had to be a celebration of gay culture, history, or community.  It was exhausting.  Fortunately, every neighborhood was gay, to an extent, so there was no mandate to "never leave the Castro!"  I saw 11 movies in the theater that spring.

January:  Gridlocked: because I felt nostalgic for Los Angeles, where every highway is always gridlocked, 24/7.  It's actually a gay subtext buddy comedy about a cop and an actor researching a role (Dominic Purcell, Cody Hackman, top photo) who encounter a real-life hostage crisis. 

February: Lost Highway, because a pretentious UC Berkeley film major invited me. I'm willing to sit through two hours of incomprehensible David Lynch sex-and-death, if there will be a bedroom afterwards.

Jungle 2 Jungle: because a silver fox invited me.  I was well past 30, but I suspect that the Silver Fox preferred them younger.  Way younger.  Tim Allen brings his 13-year old raised-by-savages son Mimi (Sam Huntington, left, recent photo) to New York, where he Tarzans around in a loincloth, getting into mishaps and meeting  The Girl of His Dreams.  Today it seems jaw-droppingly racist, but racism, like homophobia, was ubiquitous in the 1990s, so we didn't notice.

March: City of Industry, because I felt nostalgic for Los Angeles.  Ok, it's blasphemous to say it, but I preferred West Hollywood to San Francisco.  This is a standard gangster drama.

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, because who wouldn't want to see a movie with that title?  College student Andy Comeau accidentally picks up the wrong bag at the airport (security never picked up on the eight heads?), which puts a damper on his plans to marry the Girl of His Dreams.  David Spade and Todd Louiso play his buddies, who are grilled for information.  If you ever wanted to see either of them shirtless, this is your chance.

May: None

Batman + Robin.  Chris O'Donnell's second appearance as the Boy Wonder won him two Razzie nominations.  They just didn't like Robin's bulge-enhanced outfit, but it's true to the blatantly bulging 1960s Robin, Burt Ward.  

June: Hercules, because it's Hercules, the original man-mountain.  Unfortunately, the plot is all about meeting, winning, and saving the Girl of His Dreams.

July: Men in Black, because I was interested in the phenomenon of the "men in black," who show up after your UFO sighting, behave strangely, and ask bizarre questions.  Like one refers to "my husband," in an area where, according to the witness, "Gay Liberation had not made the slightest inroad."  Here Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones play agents who zap your memories to keep you unaware of the various aliens living on Earth.  The Girl eventually joins them.

July: Wild America.  Three dreamy teen idol-types (Devon Sawa, Scott Bairstow, Jonathan Taylor Thomas) hit the road to take their shirts off and buddy-bond.

July: Kiss Me, Guido:  A homophobic straight guy accidentally gets a gay roommate (he thought that GWM meant "Guy With Money") and has to overcome his repugnance.  Then he gets a job on a soap opera, but he has to...ugh...kiss a guy!  Most of the plot involves him agonizing over that...ugh...same-sex kiss.  Dude, gay guys have to kiss girls all the time.  I kissed five girls back in high school, before I came out.  It's easy -- just close your eyes and pretend she's Robby Benson (sigh).  Or in your case, um...Barbie Benton?

George of the Jungle, because I remembered the 1960s Tarzan spoof ("Watch out for that tree!"), and because of Brendan Fraser (sigh).  Of course he meets the Girl of His Dreams, but meanwhile we can watch him swing through the trees (or crash into trees) in a loincloth.  

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