Oct 1, 2022

"A Jazzman's Blues": What happens when the writer/director tries to supress a gay subtext?


A Jazzman's Blues, on Netflix, has another of those icons that looks like it could be two guys about to kiss or about to fight.  It's set in the 1950s, so I don't hold out much hope of gay characters, but the blurb says "a tale of forbidden love."  I'll go through it on fast-forward to see if that forbidden love is gay.


21:  1950s racist rural South. Jazzman (Joshua Boone) and his girlfriend kiss

24: They kiss and hug a lot

28: They kiss a bunch of times.

42: A white guy wakes up in Jazzman's house, sick, muttering in German. Jazzman fetches him some soup.  He explains that he is a booking agent, hired to get Jazzman's brother a gig at the El Capital.  

47: Later, at the bar, White Guy (Ira?) hears Jazzman sing and gets a swoony "love at first sight" expression.  Forget the brother -- I'm signing up the hunk!

Jazzman doesn't kiss any other girls through the course of the movie.  Maybe he's moved on to Ira?

58: A white guy (Maybe Brent Antonello?) and his girlfriend kiss.

64: The white guy and his girlfriend kiss again, with tongues lolling around in each other's mouths for about 2 minutes.   I'm halfway through.  When will the two men get around to kissing each other?

76: Now it gets good.  Jazzman and Ira (Ryan Eggold?)  by their car in a field. Ira cries: "I helped many people.  You can help your mother."  Hand on shoulder, a hug.  

78: They're at a jazz club.  It's time for Jazzman to sing (took him long enough), but he doesn't want to.  Ira talks him into it, touching his hand and shoulder.  "Think of Leanne.  Think of the woman you love.  Then you will sing."  Hey, that's no way to talk to your boyfriend!

"What should I sing?"  Jazzman asks.  Ira gazes into his eyes. "Anything that makes you think of me...um, I mean her." You're sending mixed messages!  He puts his arm around Jazzman and escorts him onto the stage.

80: Ira tells about how he lost his wife and kids in the Holocaust.  Can't let anyone think that he's attracted to Jazzman.

94: In his dressing room, Jazzman and Ira are arguing over performing in his hometown for his mother.  Ira offers to bring her here, but black people are not allowed in the club (except as performers).  But if he goes home, he's in big trouble for some reason.    "Is this about your mother or Leanne?"   Why, are you jealous?

104: Arguing again, this time because Jazzman's brother always interrupts his performances with his own songs.  Also he owes the club a lot of money.

I can't tell who plays the brother, so here's cast member Kario Marcel  and Christopher Cassarino in a NYU production of Henry V.  Never saw the play, but it looks like Henry has a boyfriend.

108: Ira intervenes in a fight between Jazzman and his brother.

110: Jazzman has some sort of intervention with his brother, giving us the movie's only beefcake shot.  

120: Spoiler alert: Jazzman goes back to his hometown, and is lynched.  

Gay characters: None.

Gay subtext:  Jazzman and Ira act like they are in love, but every "gazing into each other's eyes" moment is countered by a reference to a dead wife or "the woman you love."  Plus Ira does not appear in the first 40 minutes, or in the last ten minutes. It looks like writer/director Tyler Perry was trying to suppress the gay subtext, and almost succeeded.  

Sep 30, 2022

Hippolytus, the Gay Charioteer of Greek Myth

In Greek myths, Hippolytus, a chariot devotee (similar to today's auto racers), was the son of Theseus (who killed the Minotaur).  After he rejected the advances of his stepmother Phaedra, she told Theseus that he raped her, whereupon Theseus asked the god Poseidon called up a sea monster to terrorize Hippolytus'  horses and drag him to his death.

In the Euripides play Hippolytus (428 BC), we learn why Phaedra was so interested in the lad.  He rejected Aphrodite, the emblem of heterosexual love, for Artemis, the "chaste" goddess of the hunt.  Angry at the slight -- how dare there be any non-heterosexuals in the world! -- Aphrodite caused Phaedra to fall in love with him, thus leading to his death (this is a scene from a performance at the National Theater of Athens).

Jean Racine's Phèdre (1677) gives Hippolytus a girlfriend, Aricia.  This ballet version stars Slovenian dancer Tadej Brdik (left)

The 1962 film version, directed by Jules Dassin, stars gay actor Anthony Perkins as the son of a shipping magnate (Raf Vallone) who has a consensual -- but doomed -- romance with his stepmother (Melina Mercouri).

Several artists have depicted the death of Hippolytus, so they can show straining muscles and minimal clothing.  Peter-Paul Rubens (1577-1640) shows us a beefy specimen, part of his cloak transformed into a faux phallus.

Pierre Subleyras (1699-1749) depicts several guys thrown from the chariot.  Hippolytus must have been riding with a coterie of boyfriends.

I don't know why his wrists are tied.

(Photo has been removed at the request of a reader.)

Joseph Désiré Court (1797-1865) goes about as far as he can go.  I think it's hidden by a stirrup.

Sep 28, 2022

Mickey Rooney: Gay-Vague Teen Hunk of the 1940s

Mickey Rooney, who died in 2014 at the age of 93, played elderly men for so long that it's hard to remember that once upon a time he was the biggest teen hunk  in Hollywood.

Born Joe Yule in 1920, Mickey got his start as "Mickey McGuire," a preteen rapscallion in a popular series of silent movie shorts. In the mid-1930s, he moved on to teenage dramas, many with the strong gay subtext common in the era.

In  Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), his rough street kid Dick falls in love -- quite literally -- with the upper-crust Ceddie (Freddie Barthlomew).

In The Devil is a Sissy (1936), his rough street kid Gig is torn between regular guy Buck (Jackie Cooper) and upper-crust Claude (Freddie Bartholomew).

In Captains Courageous (1937), his rough ship mate Dan falls in love wih upper crust Harvey (Freddie Bartholomew).

Audiences never tired of two teenage boys gazing into each other's eyes.

But Mickey -- and MGM -- hit paydirt with the Andy Hardy series, 16 movies (1937-1946) about a rambunctious small town teenager.  Who was girl-crazy, a new and bizarre characteristic for teens in mass media of the day (previously boys were expected to become interested in girls at the end of adolescence, not at the beginning).

At first parents and peers -- and audiences -- disapproved of Andy's interest in girls, thinking it made him effeminate (see my post What Kind of Flower Are You?) 

The producers countered by displaying Andy's muscles as much as possible.  He strips down for bed; he bounces down the stairs shirtless; he goes swimming, even in winter, and in a revealing Speedo-style swimsuit.  As much as 30% of each Andy Hardy movie is devoted to beefcake shots of Mickey's body and bulge.

Here Jackie Cooper (left) is a little more obviously bulgeworthy.

The strategy worked.  The Andy Hardy movies hit the top of the box office, and Mickey Rooney was named the most popular star in Hollywood three years in a row.

He also starred with Judy Garland in three popular movie musicals about kids winning or saving things by putting on a show. 

Plus he continued the male-bonding romances in Huckleberry Finn, Boystown, A Yank at Oxford and Men of Boystown.

Mickey Rooney was always nonchalant about gay people, even in the 1940s, perhaps because his own heterosexual interests were so very obvious, with nine wives and innumerable affairs. 

In the 1950s, when gay beefcake hunk Rock Hudson hit on him, he was bemused but not offended: "I like girls," he said.  "I thought everybody knew that."

Mickey Rooney kept working into his 90s, with starring roles in such movies as Wreck the Halls (2008) and The Empire State Building Murders (2008), and small but memorable roles in The Muppets (2011), Driving Me Crazy (2012), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (2014).

Sep 27, 2022

"The Lake": Gay Guy Reconnects with his Daughter on a Lake


The icon for the 2022 sitcom The Lake, on Amazon Prime, appears to show two guys about to kiss.  But I've been fooled before -- maybe they're about to fight.  The episode synopses give no hint of LGBT identities, except for a reference to "Opal's drag show."  So I'll start at the beginning: Episode 1.

Scene 1: A car parked at a redneck Gas N Go.  A teenager girl named Billie on the phone, complaining to her mom  about having to spend the summer at the lake house.  "Why can't I just come home?"  Mom explains: she and Dad are on a book tour, so she'll be staying with her birth dad, who has been in Australia since she was born, but just returned to Canada, and wants to reconnect.  So they've never even met, and they're going to spend the summer together?  What could possibly go wrong? 

Meanwhile, inside the Gas N Go, the flamboyantly feminine Justin (Jordan Gavaris)  is trying to pick out ice cream: "Rainbow pops?  Too 'on the nose.'  Chocolate?  Pandering.  Vanilla?  Triggering  Oreo?  Insulting."  

When the redneck cashier, Riley (Travis Nelson), asks if he needs help, he nervously grabs some random stuff to buy and blurts out a plot dump: he had Billie in high school, but gave her up for adoption, they're staying at the lake where his grandparents had a cottage, he's lactose intolerant and has to douche after eating ice cream, and he has has arrested development and will date "any man-child with a beard and tattoos..."  Uh-oh, Riley has both!

Humiliated, he exits to the car, where Billie is waiting.  Wait -- I thought they were headed for their first meeting.  He complains: "I just tried to seduce my prison hipster fantasy with anal douching."  Dude, too much detail for a minor!

Scene 3:  Justin dragging their luggage through the woods: "I should have gotten one of those 4x4 things, but it seemed too homophobic."  The lake house looks like it belongs in a horror movie. Scary pictures, animal heads. The lake is full of moss and gunk.  (Justin shirtless, not impressive).  They meet their next-door neighbor, an elderly bohemian named Irika.  

While they go canoeing, Justin gives Billie the gossip about all of the neighbors. Plot dump: Tilt-a-Palooza is the event of the summer.  It's a tilting contest (canoe jousting), with prizes, ringers, scheming, sabotage, and enough hurt feelings to last a lifetime.  He points out the gorgeous, elegant lake house where he spent every summer as a kid.  It belonged to his grandparents, and would have been his, except that his "evil stepsister" tricked Dad into selling it so she could pocket the money.

Scene 4:  Justin wants to know who owns the house now, so they row up and knock on the door.  No answer.  He decides to climb up the trellis and sneak in the window, like he used to.  Billie refuses: she's black,  so if she's caught breaking into a house, the homeowner or the police will kill her (I think that's just for black men).

Scene 5: 
 Justin climbs through the bathroom window, and looks around.  It hasn't changed -- not even the decor.  Grandpa's needlepoint witth a dirty limerick is still hanging on the wall.  Why didn't the new owners bring in their own stuff?

Billie sounds an alarm -- someone is coming -- so they both rush out to the dock.  Only to stare in gape-jawed love-at-first-sight  horniness at the massively tattooed middle-aged muscleman Victor (Terry Chen, top photo)and the teen dream Killian (Jared Scott, left) emerging from the lake in slow motion.  

Introductions and plot dumps all around. Billie outs Justin; Tattooed Muscleman Victor mentions a wife to deflect any flirting.  Teen Dream Kilian returns Billie's slack-jawed love-at-first-sight gaze.  They 're all getting ready for the lake barbecue tonight (it doesn't look like you were getting ready). We'll see you there.

Scene 6:  Billie criticizes Justin's wildly inappropriate break-in and threatens to tell her parents, who will bring her home.  Justin points out that this will eliminate her chance of hooking up with Teen Dream Killian  She's obviously the stable, serious,  "that' not a good idea" partner in this relationship. 

Scene 7:  The barbecue at the Boathouse -- everyone is inside, which seems weird, and there's no food, or even plates and silverware.  Everyone stares: according to Justin, his heterosexual fling, followed by giving the baby up for adoption, is still scandalous after 16 years.  But he didn't live there; he just visited during the summer.   They meet their landlords, Whoreen and Horny Henderson (so called because they cheated on Horny's wife before marrying), and reunite with old friend Wayne (John Dore) and his wife Natalie.

"OMG," Natalie exclaims.  "You are so mini now."  (Translation: in high school Justin was a bit of a chunk).  "So you've given up the wild gay lifestyle to be a parent to your kid."  Hey, that's homophobic!

Scene 8: Billie and Teen Dream Killian, the only teenagers at the barbecue, wander off to discuss the Tilting Contest: his dad has beaten "that shark" Wayne nine times in a row.  There will be lots of conniving this year.  Billie decides to enter the contest, to break up the racist, sexist patriarchy; but her opponent will be Killian!  Girls can win and still get the guy nowadays.  They head to the beach to practice, and almost kiss, before the four Mean Girls (Shark Wayne's daughters, naturally) interfere.  They practice tilting and get drunk.

Tattooed muscleman Victor tries to introduce Justin to Redneck Hunk Riley from the gas station, but they've already met: "From the gas and going down, not on you." Don't be so sure.  Also his 10-year old son, who dresses like a silent film star and goes by the name Opal, but uses he/him pronouns.  Opal is upset because they vetoed his choice for Movie Night: Carol, about a lesbian romance in the 1950s.  Now they have to watch Minions!

And Tattoed Muscleman Victor's wife: Justin's evil step-sister. Maisy-Mae.  Dad didn't sell the lake house after all; he gave it to Maisy.  That explains why the decor hasn't changed.  Wait -- is she Killian's mother?  That would make Killian and Billie cousins.  Plus she would have to be married to Victor before Justin left town, so wouldn't Justin know about him?

Scene 9: Plot dump: Justin's Dad had an affair with Maisy-Mae's mom, and married her.  So they became related.  I'm guessing that Maisy Mae was alreaedy grown up, so they rarely interacted, but Justin would still have known about Victor.  Unless she married him later? This timeline makes no sense.

Suddenly everyone notices the teenagers drinking and rushes out.  Justin covers for Billie by claiming that he is the one who was drinking.  To prove it, he chugs half a bottle of vodka.  Then he yells at his stepsister for stealing the lake house from him. "But Dad gave it to me."

He challenges her to a tilt: winner gets the lake house.  Uh-oh, her husband Victor, 9-time tilt champion, will compete in her place.

Scene 10:  The middle-of-the-night tilt. After a lot of buildup, Justin is too drunk to compete: he throws up and falls into the lake. 

Scene 11: Billie asks a hungover Justin why he returned to Canada after 16 years in Australia: "Because my ex banged half of Bondi Beach."  Justin wants to know why Billie's parents forced her to spend the summer with him: "Because they caught me sexting Jared, the 22-year old leader of my activist circle."  In the U.S. teens have been arrested for child porn for sending naked pictures of themselves. 

Stepsister sends over a box of Dad's stuff, including an addendum to the will: the lake house is actually in a trust.  If Maisy-Mae ever leaves it, it goes directly to Justin.  So we see the main plot arc of this series.

Beefcake: Justin is nondescript, and Vincent has too many tattoos.  But Killian has abs. 

Gay Characters: Justin, of course.  The episode synopses give us no indication that he gets a boyfriend, but they also give us no indication that he is gay.  Why deliberately hide something like that?  Is this 1976?

 Opal presents as feminine but uses he/him pronouns, so he may be gay, but he's too young to express any same-sex romantic interest  on tv. Heterosexual kids do it all the time, but not gay kids.

My Grade: Quirky Canadian small towns.  Reminiscent of Schitt's Creek and Corner Gas.  But way to many discussions of douching with random strangers and kids.  B

Sep 25, 2022

The "Quantum Leap" Reboot: Hunky Scientist Gets Zapped into the Past

 Quantum Leap (1989-1994) starred the hunky Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett, a scientist who gets randomly zapped into the bodies of people who lived during his lifetime..  He then helps them solve the personal crisis of the week.  In 97 episodes, he jumped into all sorts of people, once a dog, once himself, but never anyone gay  (although, in a  "controversial" 1992 episode, he jumped into a naval academy cadet and saved a gay classmate from homophobes).    

I watched the first episode of the 2022 reboot, to see if they have maintained the hunkitude or increased LGBT representation, or both.

Prologue: We hear about Sam Beckett's time-jumps. Attempts to bring him home always failed, and eventually the project was abandoned.  Until now.

Scene 1: In a darkened lab, a woman wearing a scorpion ring types furiously into a computer. When her calculations are complete, she texts Ben Song (Raymond Lee, top photo), who is being congratulated by various people at a fancy apartment. He stops to kiss his wife in an extremely tight close-up (we even see their drool), and suggests that they sneak out for sex.  Ensuring that we know he is heterosexual from the first moment!  What are they afraid of?

The female bodyguard interrupts the smooch to complain that "Ian's about to take out the DJ because he won't play the Kinks."  Ian is an androgynous person with fluffy blond hair, a pink suit, and nail polish.  They are played by Mason Alexander Park (Desire in The Sandman), who is nonbinary in real life.  They are not really threatening violence.

The work team consists of Wife, Female Bodyguard, Middle-Aged Black Guy (Ernie Hudson, one of the original Ghostbusters), and the only named character so far, Ian.

Ben is asked to make a speech.  He talks about how much he loves his wife, and kisses her a few hundred more times.. I fast foward through the schmaltz.

Seene 2:  In the lab.  Ben puts on a skin-tight white suit (nice bulge) and climbs into a gyroscope.  He awakens in working-class clothes, driving a car, with David Bowie singing on a small portable tv. The guy next to him says: "Desperate times, right?"  

"How did I get here?" Ben asks.  Didn't he expect to time-jump?  Isn't that what he climbed into the gyroscope for?  The guy misunderstands and answers: "A million bad decisions."  He then puts on a ski mask and goes to rob a store or a bank.  

Ben climbs out of the car, disoriented. Walkmen.  Telephone booths. The Goonies and St. Elmo's Fire playing at the theater.   I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore.  A poster tells him the date: July 13, 1985, the day of Live Aid (a global concert to benefit Africa). He checks his wallet: this body is Nick Rounder, from Pennsylvania.

Ben's wife, Addison, approaches.  "Why did you leap?  We weren't anywhere near ready for a human subject!"  He doesn't know her, or what a leap is; he's lost his memory!  She explains: "I'm a hologram from the future. You're a time-traveling scientist...."  Then the robbers emerge with a casket and expect Ben to be the getaway driver.

Problem: he can't drive a stick shift.  Addison teaches him how.  He also doesn't know how to get to "the restaurant on York."  She checks her GPS.  Why couldn't they abandon the robbers and go off on their own?   

Police chase through Philadelphia.  They arrive at the restaurant hideout.  Ben's friend asks why he acted so weird.  The Scary Guy in Charge looks suspicious.

Scene 3: Addison is zapped back to the lab, due to a kink in the system.  Ian tells her what she already knows: they could send things to the past, but not bring them back.  So why did Ben suddenly grab a skintight suit, turn on the gyroscope, and zap away, knowing that he would get stuck?  "Maybe he figured out a way to come home, but his memory is wiped."  

Middle Aged Black Guy comes in, reassuring the General that the power surge was completely normal; everything is going according to plan.  "Say hello to James for me."  Is the General a woman, or a man with a same-sex partner?

They wonder some more about why Ben zapped into the past -- and wiped the security cameras, so no one would see what he was doing.  

Scene 4: Back online, Addison returns to 1985, and asks Ben why he leaped without telling anyone.  He doesn't remember.  "The system sends you back to people who need help, so if you help Nick the Robber, maybe it will bring you home."  Wouldn't that create a time paradox?

She explains all about the Quantum Leap project, for him and for the audience.  He accepts the "you're a scientist from the future inhabiting someone else's body" explanation very quickly.  Of course, he was surprised by the 1980s technology and culture, so mayb,e he remembers some things about 2022.

The other robbers tell him that it's time to open the crate: C-4 Explosives.  They're going to blow up a building!  The Scary Guy (Michael Malarkey) suspect that Ben/Nick is getting cold feet, but his buddy vouches for him. They are very chummy.  Maybe they are a gay couple?  "Ok, but if you scfew this up, I will kill you."

Scene 5: Back at the lab, everyone scurries to look up Nick Rounder.  No record of him in Philadelphia in 1985.  But the C-4 went off in front of the Museum of Modern Art on July 13th, the day of Live Aid.  No one was hurt.   

"Why would he go back in time to stop an explosion that didn't hurt anyone?" Ian asks.  Maybe no one was hurt because he stopped it?

Meanwhile, in 1985, Ben/Nick and his Friend walk out into the street, arguing about whether they should go through with the bombing or not.  Suddenly Friend's wife and daughter show up.  Darn, I thought they were a gay couple.  They finished the dialysis treatments early, so they decided to stop by. Ok, Friend's got a dying wife, so he needs money.  Not quite as cliched as a dead wife, but close.

Sorry, the guy has not yet been named, and no one in the cast listed on IMDB looks like him.

Addison zaps in with the dets: Ben's purpose in 1985 is to keep his friend, Ryan (finally, a name!), from being killed tonight.

Ryan is played by Michael Welch.  I didn't recognize him on IMDB because his photo depictes a young teenager, and this guy is well into his 30s, with a red beard.

I'll stop the scene by scene there.

Beefcake: Just Ben's bulge in a white suit.

Gay Characters:  Ian is nonbinary, but no info on their sexual orientation.

Heterosexism: Incessant.  Dying wife, "you mean so much to me," and so on.  Making the wife Ben's holographic companion will only increase the heterosexism.

Mysteries:   What was Ben being congratulated for in the first scene?  The project wasn't nearly ready to launch.

Why did Ben decide to leap?  

Why save Ryan in particular; the end-of -episode wrap-up just mentions that he and his wife and daughter lived happily every after, but doesn't tell us why Ben cared about him.  

The woman typing furiously in the first scene does not belong to the group -- who is she?

Up Next: Ben is an astronaut just before liftoff.  And of course he knows nothing about flying spaceships!

My Grade: D.

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