Sep 10, 2022

Lil' Abner: Backwoods Adonis with No Interest in Women

During the 1930s and 1940s, gay kids could pick up any daily and Sunday comic strip to see a muscular, usually shirtless teenager who was not interested in girls, plus a committed same-sex couple.

Al Capp's L'il Abner, started in 1934, chronicled the adventures of 19-year old muscleman Abner Yokum, his elderly parents, and the colorful residents of Dogpatch, U.S.A.  It was part of the contemporary hillbilly fad.

Books, movies, and radio programs were presenting the hills (Ozarks or Appalachians) as an untouched wilderness, an Eden inhabited by rustic Adonises whose muscles and rude manners provided a remedy for the ultra-sophistication of Cary Grant and Clark Gable.

The backwoods Adonis became a common image, extending through Jethro of The Beverly Hillbillies to The Dukes of Hazzard.

The prelapsarian state had one drawback, at least for heterosexual readers: no place for heterosexual romance.  So uninterested were the men of Dogpatch that Al Capp instituted a Sadie Hawkins Day, an annual festival in which man-hungry spinsters chased "skeered" bachelors, and whoever got "ketched" had to marry.

But there was plenty of room for same-sex romance, notably the man-mountain Hairless Joe and his diminuitive Indian companion, Lonesome Polecat, who live together, embark on various money-making schemes together, and even count themselves as a "married couple" on their census form.

Their soft drink brand, Kickapoo Joy Juice, is still being sold in Asia.

In 1952, changing sociocultural mores -- such as the increasing awareness that a man who is not interested in women may be interested in men -- prompted Al Capp to marry off Abner.  Soon he became a father.

Increasingly conservative and unfunny as time progressed, the strip pushed forward in a dwindling number of newspapers until 1977.

There were two movie versions of the strip.  Everyone remembers the 1959 version, with Peter Palmer as Lil' Abner, and a plot about a "yokumberry tonic" that turns ordinary men into bodybuilders but has the side effect of making them uninterested in women.

See also: Li'l Abner, the Musical; and I Go Pogo: The Gay Possum of Okefenokee Swamp

Sep 9, 2022

"Tierra Incognita": Unknown Land? It's Well-Traveled Boy-Meets-Girl Territory

 Tierra Incognita, on Disney Plus: "Eric returns to Cape Qwert to solve the mystery of his parents' disappearance."  If he's still a minor, who's taking care of him?  Aimed at younger kids, so I doubt there will be gay characters, but maybe some subtexts.  I watched Episode 1, "The Labyrinth."

Prologue: The Cazadores de Miedo (Fear-Hunters) investigate a scary abandoned amusement park named...Tierra Incognita.  Funloving Lucio (Thomas Lepera) sneaks into a ride with a skull entrance, and screams!  He runs out, yelling "She's coming!"  They rush back to their van, but not fast enough.  The windshield ices over, and a hand reaches out and draws a circle in the ice. That's not very scary.  I expected them to be eaten.

Scene 1: Eric(Pepo Maurizi)  is watching the episode on his laptop and drawing circles, while the camera pauses on a photo of his parents, newspaper clippings about their disappearance, and an ouroboros (a snake with its tail in its mouth).  He is startled by Uma, a deaf girl who came into his room to call him downstairs.

All of the pictures of Pepo that I could find online show him kissing a girl or a girl kissing his cheek or feeling his face.  With the star such an aggressively heterosexual presence, I'm starting to have doubts about this series.

Scene 2: Downstairs, Grandpa and Grandma are cooking dinner.  So why did they call him, if it's not ready yet?  They ask if he has everything he needs for his school field trip: sleeping bag, flashlight, and so on.

Eric asks for the doorknobs to be replaced while he's gone.  Grandpa refuses; "We've talked about that."  Does he think that changing doorknobs will keep out the ghosts?

Uma gets offended, for some reason, and storms off.  They discuss how much she's improving.  Eric: "You shouldn't push her so hard."  Is she Eric's sister, traumatized by their parents' disappearance?  Or is this another trauma?

Grandpa asks for the phone number of where Eric is going.  This outrages him, but he consents.

Scene 3:  Establishing shot of a town named "General Karras."   Imposing granite house.  Room full of renditions of The Scream.  Uma, the deaf girl, is working on a Scream jigsaw puzzle.  Eric comes in and shows her the photo of their parents at the amusement park, just before they vanished.  So Uma is his sister, got it.

Next, he shows her the Cazadores de Miedo video, with the hand making a circle in the ice.  "It's obviously Mom."  How did he make that conclusion?  "So I'm going back to the Cape to find out what happened.  You can't come -- you're still traumatized."

Downstairs, Eric is ready to leave for a school field trip.  But there are five locks on the door, and he doesn't have the keys.  He calls Grandpa to let him out, but they're going to escort him.  A bit overprotective, aren't they?  

Scene 4:  They drop Eric off at the bus stop and watch as he joins the other students and teachers.  Uma causes a distraction, so they don't notice that he didn't get on the bus!  Instead, he sneaks away and runs across the entire town to get on another bus headed for Cape Qwert!

Scene 5: Cape Qwert: rocks, brown water, scary caves, "no swimming" signs.  But a middle-aged woman was diving in a wet suit, and emerged with slates.  They seem to form a map.  

Meanwhile, on his train, Eric flashes back to that day at the amusement park.  While Mom painted a disturbing scene of a clawed hand rising from a grave, Dad played on the rides with young Eric, his friend Pablo, and the near-baby Uma (it's been at least 10 years since the disappearance, and Uma is still recovering?).  Eric gets snippy because he wants to play more, so Mom gives him her ouroborous bracelet and draws a circle in the sand to demonstrate that "for every ending, there's a beginning."  Rather a profound response to a kiddie temper tantrum.

Back at home, Grandpa runs into the mother of Beja, one of Eric's friends: "What a shame that Eric couldn't go on the school field trip.  Beja was super-excited." Uh-oh, now Grandpa knows that there's some skulking afoot.

Scene 6: Eric arrives at the Cape.  Dead trees, deserted houses, a destroyed movie poster, police cars slowly driving past, twin girls slowly swinging, a crazy guy selling alfajores (Argentinian cookies).  Eric remembers him: Don Celestino!  He ambles off.  Finally former best buddy Pablo (Fernando Malfitano) arrives.  They hug.

"Wow, the town is so...sad."

"Everything went downhill when the park closed." 

Scene 7: Eric wants to go straight to the amusement park where his parents disappeared, but Pablo says that it will be too crowded with tourists right now.  He wants to eat first, at a run-down diner called Creepy Pasta (get it?).  They order the jellyfish hair with zombie brains, and spectral vomit to drink.  The waiter (Sebastian Sinnott) stares at Pablo.  Desire or disdain - I can't tell which.

From left to right: Eric, the town's belligerent bully, Pablo, and the sullen Waiter.

Uh-oh, Pablo grabs the waiter's hand for some reason -- maybe they're dating?  Is Pablo gay?  This knocks over a shaker of salt, which roll to the table of a crazy-looking lady.  She screams "The curse! The curse!" and rushes out.

Scene 8: Back home, Grandma is gushing her admiration for Uma finishing the Scream jigsaw puzzle.  Grandpa calls the school field trip number -- Eric's not there!  He roils with rage, and drags Grandma away from her gushing.  "Eric lied to us! He sneaked off to Cape Qwert!  I'm going to go there and drag him back!" Not only over-protective -- he sounds downright abusive.

Meanwhile, on Cape Qwert, the middle-aged skindiver is leading a class of six girls and a smart-aleck boy, Leo (Joaquin Ochoa, top photo), on a tour of some cave paintings drawn by the Niktu, the original inhabitants of the area: "Here's a hunting scene...these are shamans conducting a ritual...and here some Niktus are running away from something.  We don't know what, because that piece is missing."  Leo keeps smooching on his girlfriend and complaining.

Her phone rings -- Dad!  She doesn't answer.  I wouldn't answer either, in the middle of a class.

Back home, we discover that Grandpa was calling her.  Middle-aged lady is his daughter, Eric's aunt!

Scene 9: At the Creepy Pasta diner.  A teenage girl, Lila, comes in and greets Pablo.  Uh-oh. This is the Girl of His Dreams.  Or maybe the Girl of Eric's Dreams.

Eric's.  The music swells, his eyes bulge, his jaw drops, and heteronormativity drops an anvil on any hopes of Eric being gay.

Lila's dumb jock boyfriend (Tomas Kirzner) comes in, snarls at Eric, and barks an order at her "There are people waiting!  Stop wasting time!  Let's go!"  So this is a 1980s teen nerd movie.  Eric will have to wrest the Girl from a guy so boorish and mean-spirited that one can't imagine anyone wanting to spend time with him, even if he was hung to his knees.  

Scene 10: At the scary caves, the lesson is over, so middle aged lady -- Carmen --- calls Grandpa back -- and gets Grandma.  "He's on his way to the Cape to yell and scream at Eric."  "What a drama queen! Eric's a grown-up.  He can take care of himself!" 

Meanwhile, Eric and Pablo are headed for the abandoned amusement park, when a police car appears.  They hide in the bushes.  "This place is off limits," Pablo explains.  "If the police catch us here, they'll...."  Attach electrodes to our genitals? 

Wait -- earlier Pablo said that the amusement park would be crowded with tourists.  Why did he lie?

Finally they reach the rusty, chained-up amusement park entrance.  "I've been waiting for this day for a long time!" Pablo exclaims.  Couldn't he sneak in whenever he wants? 

Scene 11: Carmen finishes the tour -- she's a tour guide, not a teacher -- just in time to get yelled at by Police Officer Daniel (Lautado Delgado Tymruk): "You were skindiving at the beach again!  It's off limits! Also, your nephew Eric is back! Tell him that if he sets foot in that park, I'll attach electrodes to his genitals!"

At the park, Pablo and Eric are wandering around, looking, clues, I guess.  The night of the parents' disappearance is called the Night of Lights, because for some reason the whole sky lit up.  Why wouldn't Eric remember that? Wasn't he there?

The Labyrinth, where the Fear-Hunters took the video of the frosted windshield! Pablo warns that it's too dangerous, but Eric rushes in anyway..  It's full of spider webs and hornets' nests, but otherwise looks fine. Except for the scary ghostlike figure!  Eric tries to chase it, but is stopped by flashing red lights and a loud screeching noise.  He collapses in pain.  

When the noise ends, Eric approaches a sheet-ghost figure, thinking it's his Mom.  It's actually a screeching female monster with bleeding eyes.  Pablo drags him away: "That wasn't your Mom.  It's this place.  It's evil." The end.

Beefcake: None.  And none on the internet, either, just endless photos of the male stars kissing girls.

Other Sights: The scary amusement park.  Some other exteriors.

Heterosexism: Yep.

Gay Characters:  I don't think the's much hope for Pablo, but I'll go through on fast-forward, just in case.

Fast-Forwarding Results:  They divide into two boy-girl couples to solve the mystery, but neither boy actually kiss his girl, and there are a few Eric-Pablo hugs.  You might be able to do a gay reading, but it will be subtle.

My Grade: C-

Sep 7, 2022

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power": Elves, Humans, and Proto-Hobbits Face Off against the Dark Lord

 I've read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and seen the movies, but I never paid much attention to the appendixes, the Silmarilion, the Book of Lost Tales, and the various other Middle Earth ephemera.  So I went in to the new Amazon series The Rings of Power, about the events of the First Age, with few fanboy expectations.  I watched the first 66 minute episode on Amazon Prime.

Scene 1:
  I always thought that Undying Lands, where the Elves went when they tired of Middle Earth, was a sort of heaven, but here it's a regular place, lit by lamps instead of the sun, and the Elves aren't actually Undying -- they're  newly-created, so they just assume that they won't die.  And there are bullies -- all black-haired -- who gang up on the young Galadriel (blond) before her brother Finrod (Will Fletcher, above) intervenes.  They exchange aphorisms.

Scene 2: Galadriel narrates a whole trilogy worth of plots: the evil god Morgoth extinguishes the lamps, so the Elves have to leave the Undying Lands and go to war in Middle Earth.  He's defeated, but his henchman Sauron is still around, so the Elves spend hundreds of years patrolling, looking for him or his Orc-minions.

The narration ends with Galadriel and her troops (actually six people) still looking for clues to Sauron's whereabouts.  She pushes on and on, into the north country, until her troops, led by Thondir (Fabian McCallum), tire of her constant aphorisms and lay down their swords, stating that they are going home.

Scene 3:  The Harfoots, who will eventually evolve into Hobbits, are nomadic hunter-gathers that look and act like Irish Travelers.  A young girl named Nori is frustrated with her circumspect existence, and wants adventure (like a certain Bilbo Baggins centuries hence),

Scene 4
:  When Galadriel finally makes it back to the Elf Middle Earth headquarters, her boyfriend Elrond (Robert Aramayo, left) tells her in aphorisms that the troops didn't mutiny: she did, by disobeying countless orders from the High King Gil-Galad (Benjamin Walker) to give up the search.  But he forgives her.  He has declared that the danger is over, so all of the Elves can return to the Undying Lands.

Scene 5: Nori of the Harfoots, still being frustrated and longing for adventure.

Scene 6: Galadriel and boyfriend Elrond talking in aphorisms some more.

Scene 7:
  The early Anglo-Saxon village of Men, a racial group that went gung-ho for Morgoth 70 years ago, and now is being closely monitored by their Elf overlords.  So, Hitler died about 70 years ago.  Should we be carefully monitoring the Germans?  They hate the Elves, and especially stoic Vulcan-like Arondir (Ismael Cruze Cordova), who is constantly snooping around, looking for problems. It doesn't help that he has a human girlfriend, a healer named Bronwyn-- interracial (or inter-species?)  relationships are strictly forbidden by both humans and Elves.  

Suddenly Arondir and his colleague Medhor (Augustus Prew, left) are called back to the base: High King Gil-Galad has called off the search and is sending them all home.  Good news, right?

Scene 8
: Girlfriend Bronwyn and her teenage son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) are preparing herbs.  Arondir drops by to tell her he's leaving, but first he'll go to the eastern town of Horndern to investigate some cattle being poisoned by evil grass.  She offers to go along, since she grew up there.

"Ok, but be careful -- the people of Horndern are all Morgoth-lovers."  Bigot!

Meanwhile, son Theo wants to show his friend Rowan (Ian Blackburn) a cache of treasure he found in an old barn.  Well, they're not really friends -- Rowan makes fun of him for having no father and a mother who's involved with an Elf.  The treasure includes a weird dagger marked with Dark Lord Sauron's symbol, which starts to glow and pull Theo to the Dark Side.

Scene 9: Galadriel and her group sing as their boat sails toward the Undying Lands, here pictured as a bright light.  Meanwhile, High King Gil-Galad and Elrond, back in Middle Earth, discuss in aphorisms that the evil might not have been vanquished after all.  The Harfoots agree -- "the sky looks strange."

Back on the ship, Galadriel remembers one of her dead brother's aphorisms and at the last minute refuses to go into the light.  She jumps off the ship -- and is left floating in the middle of the ocean.  I hope she knows how to teleport!

Scene 10: Everyone in Middle Earth watches as a a flashing light zooms across the sky.  A comet!  No, it can't be -- whatever it is crashes near the Harfoot camp.    Nori rushes to investigate and finds a flaming thicket, and in its midst a naked old guy.  I'm guessing Gandalf.  He's one of the istari, sent directly from God to help Middle Earth.  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Other Sights:  Lots of woodlands, some exteriors of Elvish castles.

Heterosexism:  Two boy-girl relationships are centered so far.

Gay Characters: None specified so far, and no same-sex pairings for gay subtexts.  I doubt that there will be any.  

My Grade: All  of the mysticism and magic of the Undying Lands has become banal, the Elves are portrayed as a bit totalitarian, and the gay subtexts that informed the original are gone.  C.

Sep 6, 2022

"Anything's Possible," Even a Homophobic Movie with a Trans Star


Anything's Possible (no "is"), on Amazon Prime. features a high school trans girl who gets a boyfriend.  So a heterosexual romance?  But I'll give it a try.

Scene 1: Very tight closeup of Kelsa (Eva Reign), who is about 10 years too old to play a teenager, telling us why she likes animals so much.  Then she puts on enough bling to choke an armadillo, including 20-inch nails and a purple boa, and rushes down to breakfast: a bite of banana that her Mom feeds her!  It's ok to feed a baby, but feeding another adult is sickening!  Ok, sometimes the person is mentally incompetent, and can't feed themselves, so you have no choice, but Kelsa seems perfectly capable of getting her own banana. 

Mom suggests that she cover up "the girls": otherwise the massive bling is fine.

Kelsa's friends arrive: Em (sparkly space suit from 1950 science-fiction movies), and Selene (blue hair and short-shorts).  They giggle-hug up to her room to discuss how little they eat and try things on.  

Meanwhile, across town, teen-idol dreamy Khalid (Abubakr Ali, top photo) is getting ready: a run through his hair, and he's done (a little heavy with the gender polarization, aren't you?).  He and his older brother Arwin (Naveen Paddock) rush downstairs, where Mom is cooking and criticizing their hair.  Dad high-fives them both.

Kelsa's friends dance and tell her it's time to get a boyfriend. 

Scene 2: First day of school.  Kelsa bursts into art class late, and is yelled at by the caftan-wearing teacher.  Khalid stares in cliched jaw-dropping "girl of my dreams" longing.  Or maybe just horniness: she's showing more skin than a bikini model.  

Teacher tells them to divide into pairs for portrait-painting.   Mike (Alec Ludacka) chooses another boy.  A gay couple! Guess who Kelsa chooses?   Well, she knows him from art class last year, when he poked a hole in another boy's pot so it wouldn't explode in the kiln.  "You're so nice!"   They both produce expert portraits, dry and ready to take home in 45 minutes (don't they, like, have to be graded?).

Scene 3:  Art was the first and only class of the day.  Back home, Mom gets angry at Kelsa for wanting to go to college in L.A. or New York.  What's wrong with a community college here in Pittsburgh?  Um..,Pittsburgh has 4-year colleges. "But I want to go to a college where no one knows me."  So everyone in Pittsburgh knows you?  

Mom, who is a little too fawning for comfort, sits her princess down on her throne to work on her college essays.  "I don't want to get in just because I'm trans."  So being trans comes with special privileges?  I thought there was a lot of transphobia out there.  

Scene 4:
Khalid in his room, studying with his highly-bulging buddy.  He goes onto a relationship reddit and starts passing out advice.  But one boy (Benjamin Cummings) is afraid to tell his girlfriend that he LARPs as a High Elf, and Khalid doesn't know what LARPing is.  He asks Bulging Buddy (Grant Reynolds), who says something nasty.  Aha, the intolerant friend will disapprove of the trans girlfriend.

The Bulging Buddy Grant Reynolds is black and has girly hair.  Google Images has no pictures of him, and I stopped looking at instagrams after the first three out of 50, so here's the first beefcake photo that popped up in my "Grant Reynolds" search.  The caption says that he is Shawn Mendes, Austin Mahone, Nick Jonas, and Alex Pettyfer.  I had no idea that those people were all the same person!

Khalid and Bulging Buddy go down to dinner.  Bulging Buddy eats like a barbarian, piling it in with little grunts like he's in a Manhandler Campbell's Soup commercial.  Mom and Dad pressure Khalid to start working on his college essays, "Or you'll end up like your cousin, studying poetry!  His life ruined!"  

"What's so bad about poetry?" Khalid asks.  They all ridicule him.  "You'll study economics," Mom asserts.  "End of story." Has he told them that he is studying art?   

"Work on your essays!  Write about being Muslim!  That will be sure to get you in!"  No transphobia or Islamophobia in this universe.  

"Ok, ok!"  Khalid stomps up to his room.  He starts his essay, but instead googles Kelsa, and finds her blog on transitioning.  "Two months on hormone blockers, but I haven't started on estrogen yet."  Didn't he know that she was trans already?  

"I don't want to start dating yet, because when am I supposed to tell them that I'm trans?"  Girl, you discuss it in detail on your blog.  Everybody wth Google knows.

"Besides, relationships are terrible.  My friend Chris is in a relationship, and hates it!"  Cut to Chris (a girl) being fed popcorn by Mike, the boy who chose another boy in art class.  So I guess no one is gay after all.  Plus another disgusting adult-feeding scene in just 15 minutes!

Scene 5:  Lunchtime.  The girls discuss whether to have a sleepover at Kelsa's or a spa day.  Space Suit Girl confesses that she has a crush on Khalid.  "You should ask him out!" Blue Hair suggests.  "Are you crazy?  A girl asking a boy out?"  What year is this, 1962?

"How about writing him a love note?"  Writing a note?  I haven't seen a student use a pen or pencil in years.  Everything is digital.  But she does, and asks Kelsa to give it to him, because she's a neutral party.

Meanwhile, Khalid is sitting at a table by himself.  Bulging Buddy leaps over and announces that he has joined Parler, the alt-right social media service.  Wait -- Bulging Buddy is black. How is he a white supremacist?  

Whoops, Kelsa tosses the note at him, but all three of the girls walk by and give him flirtatious wiggles, so he doesn't know which it came from.  I expect a lot of mistaken-identity stuff from out of a 1970s sitcom, but Kelsa texts him instantly to clarify.

Scene 6: Kelsi and Khalid painting and flirting.  He hates being called "nice"; she hates being called "brave," just because she's trans.  He wants to go to art school, but can't admit it. She wants to study zoology, and become a nature cinematographer (so shouldn't she study photography?).  

Meanwhile, a previously unintroduced couple, Megan and Chance (Noah Pacht), flirt and feed each other (that's the third time!)

Make that the fourth time.  Here he's being fed by his girlfriend in real life.  Ugh!

Scene 7: Night. Khalid on his romantic-advice reddit: "I am having a problem. I'm a 17-year old male with a crush on a 17-year old female."  So, what's the problem?  

Scene 8:  Art class.  Teacher shows them a reproduction of The Thundershower, by H. Lyman Saven "a perfect example of European modernism."  Two dudes don't get it, until they look closely and see...nekkid ladies!  They cheer.  Heterosexism at its most blatant.  

Scene 9: Khalid still reddit-ing.  "She's trans. Not a problem for me, but my friends and family are transphobic, so..."  She's also black.  What if your friends and family were racist?   Oh right, I forgot, your black friend is racist.

Turns out that brother Arwin has been reading his reddit posts, and is fine with the whole trans thing.  He suggests "Send her some flowers.  Girls like flowers."  Some girls don't like flowers, and some boys do.  Gender polarization is a myth.  Well, I guess not in this universe.

Scene 10: A horrible history class that involves students taking turns reading passages from the textbook.  Khalid has flowers in his backpack, causing stirs of texts around the class.  Who could they be for?  

Meanwhile, Arwin, who has morphed into Khalid's younger brother, is shown cozying up to two girls, just so we know that everybody is heterosexual.

Repeat: Everyone is heterosexual.  Same-sex desire absolutely does not exist.

I went through the rest of the movie on fast forward, looking for inklings of gay identity, and stopping at scenes that looked important.

Khalid and Kelsa start dating.  The Spacesuit Girl, is incensed over the betrayal: "I saw him first!"  Blue-Hair thinks that he just wants Kelsa as an experiment.  Bulging Buddy dumps him because he is "gay": a terrible insult, even though no gay people exist.  

Mom and Dad think that he's gay, too, figuring that if he's dating a girl with a penis, he must be interested in boys with penises.  They're ok with it, but Khalid absolutely is not.  "I'm tired of people calling me gay and crazy!"

Beefcake: Some bulging.  Khalid takes his shirt off.

Other Sights: Some establishing shots of Pittsburgh.

Gay Characters: None, not even in the dance scene.  Heterosexual desire is universal.

Sexism: Kelsa and her friends meet every single gender-polarized feminine stereotype.  Apparently someone was checking boxes off a list.  Were they trying overtime to prove that trans girls are "real girls"?

Homophobia:  Khalid is dating a trans girl, but he's disgusted and enraged when anyone implies that he likes boys.  How can he be so homophobic yet not transphobic?

My Grade: I know I'm supposed to celebrate a movie about a trans black girl, but it was too heterosexist for my tastes.  Then the homophobia kicked in.  Plus people feed each other!  F.

Sep 5, 2022

How Do You Handle a Hungry Man?

I'm not a big fan of soup, especially that partially coagulated Campbell's stuff.  Besides, they had a stupid logo -- "Mmm, mmm, good," not even words -- and the most cutesy-disgusting advertising icons, Campbell's Soup Kids.  But in the early 1970s, Campbell's redeemed itself with the Manhandlers.

They were a thick, stocky variety of soup introduced in 1968, reputedly in response to housewives' complaints that the wimpy Chicken Noodle  lines didn't fill up their husbands.

The commercial showed a hunky, muscular guy in a plaid shirt  engaged in various farm tasks (not him -- this is Matt Neustadt of reality tv).  I remember him plowing a field, piling concrete blocks atop each other, and mending a barbed wire fence -- while a male voiceover sang the double-entendre laden  "How do you handle a hungry  The Handlers!"

The gay symbolism was obvious, though no doubt unintentional.  Viewers could think of all kinds of ways to handle a hungry man.

 He goes home, bursts into the kitchen, and plops down at the table, where there is a bowl of Manhandlers soup waiting for him.  He thrusts a spoon awkwardly into his fist like he's not used to utensils and begins shoveling the soup in, occasionally making little animal grunts of pleasure.  One expects him to say "Me like soup!  Soup good!"  Oh, right, that's the logo.  The voice over repeats: "The Handlers!"

No ladies were shown in the commercials.  The Man evidently lived alone, or maybe with the man who was singing about a ""

the singer was Frankie Laine, who performed in many genres but specialized in cowboy songs, including "Hanging Tree," "Mule Train," "Riders in the Sky," and the themes for Rawhide and Blazing Saddles.

By 1977, the ravenous cave man had been civilized into a New Sensitive Man.  He even knew how to hold a spoon properly.

Sep 4, 2022

"A Quiet Place II": Mark is too busy fighting monsters to find a boyfriend

For movie night Friday, we saw A Quiet Place II (2020).  I thought that the original (2018) was about English settlers in 19th century Africa, but actually it features a world destroyed by screeching alien monsters like the demogorgons from Stranger Things.  They are impervious to  bullets, fire, and everything else; they can easily break through metal and rock; and the slightest sound brings them running, so survivors have to be "vewy, vewy quiet." 

About the monsters: we know that they came in spaceships -- there are thousands of them , so there must have been hundreds of spaceships -- but why?   An alien invasion?  It would be a rather inefficient way of clearing the planet of humans.  By accident?  Were they being transported somewhere else?

In the original, the Abbott family has bunkered down on their farm.  Fortunately, teenager daughter Regan is deaf, so they all know sign language.  Mom and Dad (Emily Blunt, John Krasinski) spend their time discussing how much they love each other and having sex.  Then they have a baby (they construct a chest with an oxygen tank to muffle its crying);  Mom's foot is impaled by a nail; Dad dies; the house is destroyed; and Regan discovers that a high-pitched squeal from her hearing aid incapacitates the monsters so they can be shot or speared. All on the same day!

In the Quiet Place II,  Mom, baby, Regan, and teenage son Mark (Noah Jupe) set out to find another safe haven (barefoot: they never heard of mocassins). Even with a monster-incapacitating boom box, they have to be careful: the monsters are lightning-quick, so they might not have time to turn it on.)  

As of the summer of 2022, Noah Jupe is 17 years old, and posting sexy, artsy, somewhat femme photos to his instagram (top photo).

Make that extremely femme.  

They seek refuge with Emmett (Cilian Murphy), whom they knew from before.  Now he's a hardened recluse, living in a bunker in an old factory (with vaults for extra protection), drawing pictures of his dead son and keeping his dead wife's body in  a back room (well, burying her would make too much noise).

Cilian Murphy played a survivor of a zombie apocalypse in 28 Days Later (2002), and gave us a nice view of his butt and penis. Here he's grizzled beyond recognition.  I can't believe that was 20 years ago. Good times.

Now the story divides in two, with heavily contrived cuts that show the two groups in exactly the same situation.

Regan notices that the radio   keeps playing the old Bobby Darin song "Beyond the Sea."  This means that there are survivors near a radio station with no monsters!  But why that song, in particular?  It must be a clue: the monsters can't swim.  We have a safe haven on an island.

Plus, they could go to the radio station and use Regan's hearing aid to incapacitate all of the monsters in the vicinity!

Ok: 1. The monsters are not sentient.  Why not just broadcast your location?  2. No one listening will know what to do.

Regan and Emmett set out for the island.  They need a boat, but the marina is occupied by a band of feral rapist-cannibals led by the Marina Man( Scoot McNairy, left).

Meanwhile, Mom and Mark stay back at the bunker, where Mark is incapaciated by a bear-trap injury. When Mom sneaks out to the town pharmacy to fetch painkillers and more oxygen for the baby's crib, Mark decides to do a little exploring, stumbles across the dead wife's corpse, and yells, attracting a monster.  He grabs the baby and jumps into one of the vaults, but he didn't have time to secure the latch, so they are stuck in there, with the oxygen running out!

Finally Regan and Emmett make it to the island refuge, where survivors live in houses with electricity, have bonfires, play outside, and talk to each other in regular voices: monsters can't swim.  One expects a totalitarian police-state out of The Walking Dead, or maybe a weird cult, but no, they are perfectly nice.  

Reagan and Emmett explain their plan to the leader, Island Man (Djimon Housma), who agrees to take them to the radio station.  But then one of Marina Man's boats drifts to the island with a monster stowaway!  

I'll stop the plot synopsis there.

Beefcake: None.  There are some cute guys in the opening scene, set in a town Little League game the day the aliens land.  Otherwise everyone is grizzled and ragtag, except for Mark (he always looks like he just came from a fashion shoot).

Heterosexism:  Less than in the original.  Here it's mostly men mourning their dead wives.

Gay Characters:  No one expresses any same-sex desire, but Mark doesn't express any desire for anyone.  They could easily have established his heterosexual identity by showing him perusing a girlie magazine, but they don't.  Plus he plays a nurturer, taking care of the baby while Mom's gone.  You could easily do a gay-subtext reading.

My Grade: B

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