Oct 7, 2022

Oddballs: A Ghost and an Alligator Have Surreal Problems in a Netflix Adaption of a Web Comic


Netflix usually does a good job at inclusivity in its children's programming, and the promo of Oddballs showed several girls and a boy going wild over a boy band, so I gave it a try.  The boy band was not mentioned in the episode guides, so I went with "Emo Like the Wolfstank" (no idea what that's parodying).

Scene 1: Dirt School (where you learn about dirt, or is that the name of the town?). Max (Julian Gant, below), an alligator, is in the locker room by himself, when James (James Rallison, left), who looks like a round-headed ghost, comes in.  His arm is in a cast: he was injured during chess club try-outs.  Why chess club?  Because he's the only one in the school without "a thing."

James is so upset that he's starting to sweat, which has never happened before.  Max lends him his "Viking Mist" deodorant, but he applies it to his face, and begins sweating from his eyes.  Gross!  

Scene 2:
  The class consists of three humans, with racial and religious diversity, a cat-person, and two blobs.  The teacher is a human-sized fly.  When James enters, the green blob ridicules him for losing at chess tryouts.  James responds snarkily, but it looks like he's crying, thus confusing the bully blob.  Teacher congratulates him on his expert use of conflicting emotions, and suggests that he join the Competitive Feelings team (they''re down a member due to a sprained tear duct).  

His alligator friend Max is the team's MCBV (Most Valuable Cry Baby), and Smooth Jason is his biggest rival.

Scene 3:  Competitive Feeling Team practice.  A unicorn and a guy with hearts for eyes.  Teacher asks James to demonstrate his crying ability, so he applies the deodorant to his face and starts sweating from his eyes.  Wouldn't the rules forbid using an artificial agent to induce tearing?  "Impressive!" Teacher exclaims.  "You'll totally crush Smooth Jason."

Scene 4:  Out in the hallway, Max complains: "This is my thing.  It can't be your thing."  Why can't two friends have the same interest?  "Besides, those aren't real tears.  You're cheating!"  But James, basking in the acclaim, ignores him.

Scene 5: The Competitive Feelings Championship in the school gym.  The audience consists of a boy wearing a hoodie, a girl wearing a hijab, a frizzy-haired girl, and a cat.  Teacher points out the rival school's team, "with their preppy clothing and houses with stairs": three Beatles (the rock group, not the insects), and the teen-dream Smooth Jason.  He sniffs a flower, lets a tear drop, and explains "I was just thinking of a puppy seeing his first sunrise"  The audience goes wild (that's the "boy band" scene from the promo!).  Hijab Girl and Hoodie Boy swoon.  

Scene 6: The first round, a Mawkish Debate on "Honesty in Sports."  The team that moves the audience the most wins.  Max is fuming over James cheating, so his speech is angry, not mawkish.  Smooth Jason asks "What is honesty?" and snifs a flower and lets a single tear drop, pulverizing Max.  James takes over, "tears" rolling down his face, and gives a speech supporting cheating in sports.  Everyone is shocked, which counts as emotion, so he wins the round!

Scene 7: Next round: Musical Tears, Heart-Eyes vs. one of the Beatles.  While listening to a sad song, whoever fills a bucket with tears first wins.  James takes over for Heart-Eyes, enraging Max.  The Beatle gives up, so Smooth Jason takes over and sniffs his flower, and the tears start flowing.  Hey, I think he's using an allergin to cheat!  

Scene 8:
Hug-a-Thon.  Whoever hugs his opponent into an emotional collapse wins (only "clean hugs," the referee warns.  So keep it above the belt?).  This is Max's speciality, but James takes over, with Smooth Jason as his opponent.  They evade each other's hugs for awhile, but soon they are both grabbing and hugging and being hugged, and swooning with non-erotic ecstasy.  James applies the deodorant to his arms, increasing their emotional appeal somehow, so Smooth Jason finally collapses, defeated.

Scene 9: One round left for the championship, but Max has stolen James' deodorant!  He can't "cry" without it!  He rushes to the locker room to get more.  They argue:  "As long as you use the deodorant to cheat, competitive emotion can never be our thing!"

Scene 10: The last round: an emotional debate on "Stealing Your Best Friend's Thing."  How apropos!  James comes clean about his cheating, and give an emotional speech about how he hurt his friend and wants him back.  They hug.  Everyone is overcome with emotion, but James is disqualified, so Smooth Jason wins -- until his flower falls out of his pocket.  It's attached to an onion! Called it!

They are both disqualified, so no one wins.  Teacher, distraught, has a tantrum, rolling around on the floor crying.  The Referee declares him the winner.  Wait -- he's not on the team, and he's not giving a speech.  This doesn't make sense.  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: None.

Gay Characters:  Maybe Hoodie-Boy, who goes wild over Smooth Jason along with the girls. No noticeable gay subtext in the ghost-alligator relationship, in spite of their frequent hugs. 

Background: After reviewing this episode, I discovered that the "marshmallow people" also appear in James Rallison's extremely popular web comics and youtube videos. There is also a series of spin-off books.  

My Grade: B

Oct 6, 2022

Going to Movies in 2000-01: A boy seduces a pedophile, a tomcat is tied up, Elaine's boyfriend befriends a llama, and Hedwig has an angry inch

 In 2000-2001, I finished my doctoral dissertation, got my Ph.D., and started looking for jobs in academe.  A lot of those 2-3 day-long interviews where cowtown recruitment committees ask "with all of your research on gay populations, are you ever mistaken for gay?" and invite me to check out "all the pretty girls" on campus.  One of them was in L.A., but I didn't have time to check out my old haunts or see my old friends.  Not much time for movies, but I managed to see 10.  Some of them may have been on DVD later.

Sunset Strip, because I was feeling homesick for West Hollyw ood.  But it's set in the heterosexual part of town, near the Whiskey A Go Go, where a group of aspiring singers have dreams, have sex, take drugs, and die. Some of them were cute, like Jared Leto as a country rocker.

September: None.

October: Bedazzled: Brendan Fraser (sigh), who can't get a date for some reason, makes a pact with the Devil to win the Girl of His Dreams.

November: None

The Emperor's New Groove.  Gay men usually stay away from Disney movies unless they can co-opt some kids to accompany them, since the parents in the audience assume that they are there to look for pedophile conquests.  But I wanted to see a Disney evocation of Inca myth.  Besides, one of the voice actors was Patrick Warburton (sigh), Elaine's hunky boyfriend on Seinfeld.  I was pleasantly surprised: the story is about an Incan emperor (David Spade) who is turned into a llama, with no heterosexual romance anywhere, other then a couple of men with wives and kids.  (There was one in an early draft, but it was dropped.)

L.I.E., because I had had many terrible experiences on the Long Island Expressway (only get on if if you don't mind waiting hours for the traffic to inch forward, stop, inch forward, stop, and stay stopped).  It turns out to be a difficult-to-watch movie  about the friendship between a boy (15-year old Paul Dano) and a pedophile (Brian Cox).  Guess which one gets all of the beefcake shots?  Guess which one is killed?

February:  None.

: Tomcats, because who wouldn't want to see  Jerry O'Connell in anything, even standing still in his underwear for two hours? Well, especially standing still in his underwear.  Here, a large sum of money will go to the "last man standing" in a group of friends (that is, the last man who avoids marriage).  So the sexist goons try to trick each other into marrying (women).  Notable for a scene in which Jerry is tricked into becoming a BDSM bottom (for a woman, of course).

April: Driven, because of Sylvester Stallone (sigh).  He plays an elderly race car driver who comes out of retirement to help a new recruit win races and The Girl.

May: The Mummy Returns, because of Brendan Frasier (sigh).  Except here he's a Family Man archaeologist with a wife, a kid, and a girl-crazy brother-in-law. Boo!

June: Moulin Rouge, because I love Paris, and who doesn't want to see a film version of Carmen? I walked out when they started singing contemporary songs.  How can you be transported back to 19th century Paris when they are blaring "Rhythm of the Night" and "Lady Marmalade" at you?

June: Y tu mama tambien, because I heard that there were gay characters.  There aren't.  Two teenage boys and an "older woman" take a road trip through down-and-out Mexico while their girlfriends are away.  Each has sex with his girlfriend, and with the older woman; at one point they have a three-way, and the friendship ends.  As the "Men on Film" would say, "Hated it!"

July: Legally Blonde. An airheaded fashionista follows her elitist, arrogant ex-boyfriend  into Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back.  She works on a murder case where her knowledge of fashion saves the day, gets a less-arrogant boyfriend, and rejects Boyfriend #1. 

: Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  During the 1980s, an East German boy has a "sex-change" operation so he can be with his American boyfriend.  The operation is botched, leaving her with a female gender identity and an"angry inch" for genitals.  She becomes a punk rocker, and meets, falls in love with, and is dumped by the Boy of Her Dreams, who is a competitor punk rocker (a cute although grungy Michael Pitt).  The attitude toward gender and sexual identity is uncomfortably old fashioned, but the songs are good.

Oct 4, 2022

Bobby Hogan: Cute, Muscular, and...Heterosexist?


"The Lake," the last episode in this season of American Horror Stories, follows the AHS pattern of minimizing or eliminating LGBT representation.  In the first scene, three hot guys and three bikini-clad girls are on a boat, discussing how heterosexual they are.  Jake (Bobby Hogan) has a map of the village that was flooded to create their lake, so he and his sister dive down and look for souvenirs.  Suddenly a green tendril grabs him and pulls him into the muck.  He doesn't appear again, except as a corpse.  In fact, none of the cute guys appear again.  The story is all about sister Finn and her mother discovering the evil secret of the lake.

Heteronormativity nor no, I wanted more than just one scene worth of Bobby Hogan's chest and abs, so I researched him on IMDB and his instagram, looking for beefcake and evidence that he is gay.

On the IMDB, he has 7 listings, all in 2021-22.  

1. The Superhero Diaries, a 14-episode superhero parody.  He plays the Parody Spiderman in 7 episodess.  I watched some clips on Youtube: a date with Harley Quinn, and serenading Wonder Woman.  Depressingly heteronormative, but he displays a nice physique and bulge.

2.-3. Two guest spots, on 9-1-1 Lone Star and Resident Evil.

4. A short.

5. The American Horror Stories gig.

6. -7.Two projects in post-production.  Remy & Arletta, a Christian movie about two girls who are friends (not girlfriends), and Anamorphosis, a short about "a young woman working through her anxiety.

A Christian movie?   Not all Christians hate gays, of course, and some gays are Christian, but I'm pretty sure that inclusivity was not a major goal.

Still, a physique is physique, no matter how homophobic, so I'm pressing on to his Instagram.

Instagram: the beach, the Hollywood Sign, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Las Vegas Sign, the U.S. Capitol, the beach again.

One of his fans responded to this photo with "Praise the Lord!"  Not a good sign when even your beefcake photos are religious.


Hanging out with male friends in Miami Beach.  Bobby comments that they are all "hot emoji."  

He plays a guitar in a huge auditorium in St. Louis, celebrates Christmas four times, browses in this very interesting bookstore, performs in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Newsies, and On the Town

He hugs girls, is kissed by two girls at once, and walks with a girl on his back.  He also hugs a boy twice.

This photo has a girl telling him that he's too sexy, and a boy complaining that he is "showing them up."

An acting website gives us some biographical data: Bobby grew up in St. Louis, attended Chaminade College Preparatory School, and graduated from Belmont University with a BFA in Musical Theater in 2019.  

Chaminade is Catholic, and Belmont is "Christ-centered," affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church until it broke away in 2007, so Bobby is doubtless straight.  Is it possible to get a degree in musical theater while homophobic?  Probably not, but he could certainly be heterosexist.

But a physique is a physique.

Oct 3, 2022

"Dimension 404": SIx Episodes, Two Gay Protagonists in a Hulu Horror Anthology


Dimension 404
(2017), on Hulu, was a horror anthology with Twilight Zone-style narrator and a cyberspace theme, promising "stories like none you've ever seen before," although most of the stories were seriously cliched.  Then it said "You have 20 minutes left," although each episode was over 40 minutes long. I ended up fast-forwarding a lot.  But at least there was a lot of LGBT representation.  

Two of the six episodes centered on LGBT protagonists.

1. "Polybius": Andrew (Ryan Lee), a bullied gay teen in the 1980s, accidentally unleashes a demon in a video game.  He thwarts it with the help of his two friends, one of whom (Sterling Beaumon, left) might return his affection.  Or maybe he's a gay ally, which would have been quite brave at the time.  The word "gay" never appears ("fag" does), but you get the idea from Andrew saying "I'm tired of hiding" and telling his friend "I love you."   Plus the narrator talks about "being different"

Plus there are a lot of locker-room hunks wandering around in two separate scenes.

2. "Bob": An army therapist has to treat a supercomputer made of human flesh, so he can thwart a terrorist attack on Christmas.  She is anxious to get home to her wife and kid for the holidays.

Two other episodes contain minimal heterosexual romance.

3. "Cinethrax": A Gen X slacker (Patton Oswalt), in a theater occupied entirely by cellphone-clicking millenials, sees a monster through his special 2-D glasses.  He attends the movie with his niece, not a girlfriend, and never expresses heterosexual desire.

4. "Impulse": A video gamer discovers an energy drink that speeds up time, thus allowing her to play faster and win competitions.  Unfortunately, it also fast-forwards through her life. She gets a husband (Matt Lauria, left) and kids, but only to indicate time passage through the Apocalypse (caused by the energy drink).  

That leaves two heterosexual-romance-oriented episodes:

5. "Matchmaker": Although he is attractive, has an impressive bulge, and lives in a gorgeous New York apartment,  Adam (Robert Buckley) can't get a date.  His sleazy roommate advises him to try an online service, with horrifying results.

6. "Chronos": A physics student and her boyfriend (Utkarsh Ambudkar, right) encounter a time-traveler from a 1990s tv show.

Hulu cancelled the series after one season of six episodes.  Maybe the humor was too snarky, or the plots were too drawn out, or there was too much competition from other horror anthologies. 

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