Dec 31, 2022

"The Glory": Bullied Girl Gets Revenge in Korea


As a victim of some rather extensive "fag! sissy! girl!" bullying in grade school and junior high, I can attest that the after-effects last for a lifetime.  I cringe when I hear someone laughing, even a stranger on the other side of a crowded room.  No one walking behind me can catch up; I'll walk faster, or break into a run if I have to. And I will not sit down until only a couple of seats are left. So I was curious about the oddly-titled Korean drama The Glory, about a woman who dedicates her life to getting revenge on her high school bullies.  I don't even care if there is any gay content.

Scene 1: 2022.  Driving in the dark, a woman wonders "Why can't I live a normal life?"  She passes downtown skyscrapers, all dark and deserted (interesting  In America offices are brightly lit to discourage burglars). Finally she arrives at the Eden Apartments, where she eats a sushi roll and waits. 

At dawn an elderly lady comes out, welcomes her to the apartment complex, and gives her a flower -- the Devil's Trumpet, because you can only smell it at night.  She begins smashing some pots, which causes the woman  to relive a bullying incident and shatter like glass on the sidewalk.

Scene 2: While the woman staples up some photos, her former classmate,  Weathercaster Yeon-jin, comes in and wants to know what she's doing: "That's Jae-jun, Sa-ra, everyone.  But who are you?"  If she doesn't know, what is she doing there?  This enrages the woman: "Don't you know me?"  She attacks with the staple gun. "I'm going to kill you, but first let me tell you my story."  Yeon-jin laughs: "You couldn't kill me, you worthless inferior!"

Scene 3
: 2004. The police commissioner is yelling at the teenage Yeon-Jin for bullying her classmate.  

Out in the main office, the  woman's teacher/guardian is yelling at her for calling the police over "a prank." Another boy claims that he needs a guardian because his parents are golfing abroad, so Teacher takes him, too.  

At home, Yeon-Jin's Mom is yelling at her for getting in trouble over the bullying. "I'm very disappointed in you!  You couldn't even handle a worthless inferior -- how can you compete with your equals?"  She attacks.  "Besides, the shaman said not to associate with people with o-names."

Scene 4: Still 2004.  A shamanic ceremony.  Mom is overcome with emotion, but teenage Yeon-Jin, bored, is playing a game on her phone. 

Cut to three girls and a boy, or maybe two boys and two girls,  dragging the woman -- finally named, Dong-eun -- into the high school gym.  Bully Yeon-jin is delighted.  She pretends to apologize for bullying Dong-eun earlier, and then burns her with a curling iron.  Dong-eun screams and cries, but the bullies continue. "Nobody will come to help a worthless inferior.  The gym teacher even gave us the key, so we could put you in your place."  (Actually, one of the bully girls stole the key while making out with him.)

"Why are you doing this?" Dong-eun asks.

"God, I'm so sick of that question?  Why do worthless inferiors always ask that?  Isn't it obvious?  Because you're worthless.  Everyone hates you -- us, the teachers, the cops, your parents."  They laugh and burn her some more, and the boy starts to rape her while a second boy -- not part of their group? -- nonchalantly plays basketball. Wow, I never got any bullying this severe.  They called me names, laughed, put things on my back and down my pants, shoved me into traffic, and once burnt me with a cigarette, but that was probably an accident -- the girl was trying to kiss me, to "cure" me of being "a fag." 

Scene 5:
Dong-eun in the nurse's office, asking for some hydrogen peroxide anaesthetic.  The nurse wants to know who burned her.  At that moment Bully Yeon-jin appears: "I did.  Why do you ask?" 

The nurse backs off. "Just curious."  

Left: Lee Do-hyun, who plays a character that hasn't been introduced yet, I assume.

Scene 6: In 2022, the adult Dong-eun accosts Bully Yeon-jin's preteen daughter: "I think about your Mom every day.  There's a type of hatred that's similar to longing."  Sounds rather homoerotic.

Cut to 2004: the Teenage Dong-eun goes home to her run-down, graffiti-covered residential hotel.  Not a safe place: the bullies are in her room, drinking, trashing things, and stealing her money.  They force her to dance while they laugh and call her names. After they leave, she tries to jump off a ledge, but she's too depressed. 

Scene 7: The bullies skiing.  Bully Yeon-jin announces that Dong-eun dropped out of school.  They all cheer.  "But...she told the vice principal that she's dropping out because of us!  He's angry!"  They are shocked.  "I thought the vice principal would be happy?  Doesn't he hate her as much as we do?"  

Apparently not.  Bully Boy Jae-jin promises to take care of it: he calls Dong-eun and threatens to kill her unless she tells the principal that she was lying.  

Scene 8:  The vice-principal berating Don-eun's teacher for letting her name the bullies.  "This could affect your performance review." Teacher, in turn, berates Don-eun: "You're overreacting!  Friends hit each other sometimes -- it's not a big deal!"  He slaps her about a dozen times, yelling, while the other teachers try to restrain him: "Stop!  You'll hurt your hand!"  

Scene 9: New World Hair Salon, Don-eun's Mom is being pawed by a male customer when she's called away: Bully Yeon-jin's parents are offering a cash settlement of several million won (about $5000), if she signs a document attesting that Don-eun is mentally unstable, and provoked her daughter.  Wait-- I thought nobody cared. She takes the money and scrams, abandoning Don-eun, who is now homeless.

Scene 10: Kimbap Paradise, a sushi take-out place, through season after season as Dom-eun makes sushi-roles.  One night she's in a lot of pain due to her scars and menstrual cramps, and the pharmacy doesn't open for eight hours, so she decides to jump into the river: the pain will stop, after all.  But she just cries instead.

Scene 11:  Back in 2004, the bullies are berating and burning a new girl in the gym, when Dong-eun appears.  "I can't believe the stupid idiot came here willingly, but let's berate and burn her!"  Instead, she points out their career goals: Sa-ra wants to paint, Hye-jeong to be a stewardess, Boy Bully Jae-jin (Park Sung-hoo, second photo) to own a golf course, Boy Bully Myeung-o (Kim Gun-woo, top photo) to be rich, and Yeon-ju to marry a hot guy and have kids. 

"So, what's your pathetic dream, stupid bitch?" Yeon-ju asks.  Dong-eun replies: "You.  My dream is you."   Still sounds homoerotic. They all laugh derisively.

Scene 12: Summer of 2006, two years later. Dong-eun is working at a textile factory and studying English. The boss berates her for not working hard enough. She gets her GED, takes the SAT, and is admitted to college.  Before leaving the factory, she meets sprightly, friendly 20-year old Seong-hi -- a hot girl!  This lady is definitely a lesbian!  

"You're so lucky! In college you can meet new people, get a boyfriend..."  "No!"  Definitely a lesbian.

Scene 13: Freshman year at the Euicheon University of Education. Dong-eun is still ruminating over Yeon-ju and the other bullies.  She tries to devise a revenge plan -- but what could get Yeon-ju, who thinks of her as less than nothing, to be afraid?  Cut to the present, with Dong-eun accosting the adult Yeon-ju's daughter.  Uh-oh. I was feeling sympathetic to Dong-eun, but not anymore.  The kid didn't do anything!

Cut to Yeon-ju doing her weathercast, and Dong-eun ruminating: "An eye for an eye, a burn for a burn.  Is that fair?  No, she has to lose more than that."  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Heterosexism: Hetero-romance doesn't seem to be on anyone's mind, and sex is just a tool used for humiliation and blackmail.

Gay Characters:  Maybe Dong-eun. At least she describes her hatred in homoerotic terms, and meets a nice girl. 

How Many Bullies:  Sometimes three, sometimes four.

My Grade: B+

Dec 26, 2022

"The Most Beautiful Flower": How To Become Popular if You're Smart, Bisexual, and Living in Michoacan.


The icon of the Mexican comedy The Most Beautiful Flower shows what looks distinctly like two boys flirting.  But I've been fooled before, so to be cautious, I'll watch the second episode, where wallflower Michelle goes to a party.  Maybe the gay boys will be there.

Turns out that Episode #2 makes no sense without Episode #1:  Michelle is an unpopular outcast girl in her high school.  But while most unpopular kids wallow in self-pity, Michelle knows that she's fabulous.  The problem is, how to convince everyone else?  She's been dating popular Daniel (German Bracco) on the downlow for a year, but in Episode 1 she dumped him when he refused to come out to his friends.

On to Episode #2:

Scene 1: Procession of the Christ Child, held on January 6th in Xochimilco, a colorful, canal-filled suburb of Mexico City. Extravagant costumes, drummers, Dad carrying a Christ Child under a canopy while Mom, Grandma, and Michelle smile and wave.  Well, Michelle mostly grimaces. .  

Suddenly she sees a message in the sky -- Traviesa -- and rushes over to the Traviesa stationery store.  Inside, a hot guy is dancing by himself in his underwear (no beefcake). They gape at each other in intensive horniness.

Scene 2:
In between their desperate struggles to avoid tearing each other's clothes off,  the boy explains.  His name is Mati (Tadeo Tovar). His grandmother owns the store, and lets him come in after hours to practice DJ-ing.  He works at weddings, birthdays, quinceaneras, and coming up, a huge fundraiser for the town's Most Beautiful Flower contest.

Back story: Tadeo Tovar (right) is gay, and dating famous dancer Li'l Cuesta, who has 42.5 k followers on Instagram. 

Michelle was not invited, because she is so unpopular, but she can't tell Mati that!  "Maybe I could sing at the party?" she suggests.  "Sure.  I'll see you there."

Scene 3: School.  For once, it's not a glass-and-steel palace with a 5-story atrium; it's a storefront with a colorful Aztec-style mural.  Daniel, who was dumped by Michelle in the last episode, enters the Chem Lab with three girls hanging on him, and finds a teddy bear at his work station: "For Michelle, from a secret admirer!" he announces.

The Mean Girls laugh; no way an unpopular girl has a secret admirer, so she must have sent it to herself!  Michelle is outraged at Daniel's obvious attempt to get her back, so she throws the teddy bear on a lit bunsen burner.  

Scene 4: 
After class, Daniel retrieves the teddy bear from the trash.  The head Mean Girl interprets this to mean that he is the "secret admirer" (which he is, of course), and advises him against dating Michelle, since dating an unpopular girl would make him unpopular, too.  She points out a table of popular kids on the quad: "So, which of these do you like as a boyfriend or girlfriend?"  Wait -- does she know that he's bisexual, or is she being inclusive just in case?

Left: More Tadeo.

Scene 5:  Michelle at study hall with her two friends, both girls, but one with very short hair -- maybe a lesbian?  They are outraged that Daniel would try to get her back.  Meanwhile, he moons over her from across the room.  She tells them about the big fundraiser -- their chance to go to a popular kids' party, a first step toward popularity!  They are not interested, but consent to go.

Scene 6: After school.  Michelle tells the girls that they have to dress as "beautiful flowers" for the fundraiser.  They think that the phrase is metaphorical, but she doesn't listen: flowers it will be.   

Cut to Michelle in her grandmother's room, stuffing her face, looking at old photos, and being yelled at by the sour-faced old lady. "Stealing my marzipan and my photos."  Michelle explains:  "I was invited to a fundraiser party for the Flower Contest, so I need to borrow one of your outfits."  Grandma won the contest several times, back in the day, so maybe one of her old sashes?  

Suddenly she is hit in the head with an object (I can't tell what).  Grandma notes that her little sister is visiting.  This enrages Michelle, who hates the little brat. She's in Michelle's room, touching her things and discussing human anatomy with their mother.

Back story: Mom and Dad divorced long ago, and both have remarried.  The Sister is from Dad's second wife, staying with them while her parents are at a conference in Europe.  

Scene 7:  Dad is out by the canal, fixing Michelle's boat.  She approaches: "I'm sorry I haven't talked to you for a long time, but I have a boyfriend now, and he takes up all of my time."  He asks about her two friends, Yadi and Tania.  "Who?  Oh, of course, we're still tight, but I have so many friends now, just simply tons and tons of friends, oozing with popularity, so I  don't see them much."  Way to disrespect  Yadi and Tania, girl!.    

Scene 8: Michelle and her two friends on a deck, complaining about a "Tell me you're popular without saying that you're popular" video.  It's ridiculous!  The only way to popularity is to go to parties, get boyfriends, and stick it to the head Mean Girl, who happens to be Michelle's cousin.  

Scene 9: Michelle and her two friends, wearing flowered headdresses, are dropped off at the giant event space by her stepfather Fer.  He forbids them from going in because two older guys -- college age -- are arguing outside. Also, no one else is wearing stupid flowered headdresses.  But Michelle doesn't listen. 

 They enter, to the stares and jeers of everyone, only to be turned away by the bouncer for not having invitations.  Michelle argues that she has a singing gig there, but the bouncer doesn't believe her.

Idea -- they can hide in empty speaker cases and be carried in!

Scene 10:
Stepfather Fer (Luis Fernando Peña) calls his wife to see what he should do.  She's in the midst of surgery -- literally cutting open a body -- so she tells him to just handle it.   He steals a boy's hat and jacket and sneaks in, badly disguised as a teenager.  

Daniel (the boy who was secretly dating Michelle) recognizes him, and blurts out way too much: he's been thinking of "kissing her...doing everything with her...out of love, of course."  Stepfather Fer forbids him from seeing her.

Meanwhile, having learned that Michelle likes Matti the DJ, cousin Mean Girl saunters up to the DJ booth to steal him.  

Scene 11: Uh-oh, the speaker cabinet won't open.  They yell and pound.  Finally Michelle manages to knock her cabinet down the stairs.  It bursts open, revealing her, with a stupid flower headdress, to the world.  Everyone laughs.  But Mati steps up, pretends that it was an intentional opening for her performance, and hands her a microphone.  She sings about being a masochist, and is a big hit.

(Don't worry, the two friends escape the cabinets, too.)

Scene 12:
Mati and Michelle discuss her performance.  He offers her a permanent job singing at his gigs, which she gladly accepts. Then he asks: would it be ok you think you" 

 "Yes????  Go on...."  

"Give me your Cousin Mean Girl's phone number?"  Psych!  The End.

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters:  Two guys dancing together at the party, Daniel's bisexual reference, and in future episodes, Michelle herself recognizes that she is bisexual!  She ends up having to choose between two boys (Mati and Daniel) and a girl (not yet introduced).  

The Icon:  It's gone now, but I think it' depicted Daniel and Michelle with her hair pulled back, so she looks like a boy.

My Grade: B+

Dec 25, 2022

"Wednesday": Is the New Addams Family TV Series Gay-Friendly?


The various renditions of The Addams Family have the reputation of being gay-friendly, but I don't recall a single actual LGBT character, or even any significant gay subtexts: it's heterosexual romance all the way down.  I'm hoping that the new Netflix tv series Wednesday, which places the teenage Wednesday Addams in the Nevermore Academy, a boarding school for vampires, werewolves, and other magical types, will move into uncharted territory with actual gay characters.  I watched the episode with a school dance, to check for same-sex couples dancing, foreground or background.  .

Scene 1:  Wednesday and Thing (her disembodied hand companion) break into the coroner's lab to perform an autopsy on a victim of a monster attack.  About what you would expect: some defensive wounds, almost completely disemboweled.  Whoops, they have to hide as the coroner enters, with the sheriff, to show him that the two toes were removed from the victim's left foot.  By the way, this is Dr. Anwar's last week: he and the Mrs. are going to spend his retirement traveling.   He's doomed.  Nope, I looked it up: he only appears in this one episode.  So the retirement and the "Mrs." reference are irrelevant, except to identify him as heterosexual.

Scene 2: Wednesday's dorm room at the Nevermore Academy.  Her roommate objects to the forensic photos covering the wall.  She notes that the victims all had different body parts surgically removed: a kidney, a gall bladder, a finger. This is not a monster; it's an experienced serial killer!  

Scene 3:
Botany class.  Wednesday sits next to Xavier (Percy Hynes White, left), her gay bff or boyfriend.  He encourages her to invite someone to the big dance, the Rav'n (because it's the Nevermore Academy, get it?)   "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes.  I may do that anyway." 

She notices scratch marks on his neck.  He explains that he got them

Scene 4: To find out what's going on with Xavier, Wednesday and Thing sneak into his art studio, and find paintings of a sharp-clawed monster.  He must be the murderer! They steal a few -- oh no, he caught them.  The girl has no luck with secret missions!    Fortunately, he assumes that Wednesday came to invite him to the dance, but now she has to go through with it.  Oh, well, she can interrogate him about the murders.  

Scene 5: The Roommate is thrilled that Wednesday is exhibiting heterosexual interest (was there a question?), and starts planning an outfit for her.  While she is shopping, Wednesday runs into her therapist, who asks if she is going to the dance (the heteronormative imperative never stops, does it?)  Then she takes the monster drawings to Galpin, the police detective who does the standard "let the professionals take care of it" routine.  

Scene 6:
Roommate and two other girls at a diner.  Lucas Walker (Iman Marson), the mayor's son, drops by to ask her to the dance. 

Meanwhile, Wednesday runs into the Detective's son, Tyler (Hunter Doohan, top photo), whom she has an intense-stare crush on.  He was planning to ask her to the dance, but she's already going with Xavier, which upsets him.  "You keep giving me mixed signals.  I thought we liked each other, but then you pull something like this."  

Scene 7:  In a beekeepers' cabin, Wednesday is showing her evidence to Eugene (Moosa Mustafa), a Spanish-speaking boy who has a crush on her roommate.  Ok, everybody is heterosexual so far.  Eugene mentions his two moms, but a single sentence referring to non-appearing characters is insufficient.  Maybe there will be some same-sex couples at the dance. 

Scene 8: They investigate a mysterious cave and find manacles.  They make plans to skip the dance and stake out the cave tonight.

Scene 9: The DJ at the dance, who has a crush on Wednesday,  knocks on her door: Thing has pushed them together by dropping an invitation in his tip jar. This may be a new character, or it may be Tyler from Scene 6.  There are so many guys with crushes on Wednesday that I can keep track.  Is she like, madeo of video games?  

Thing has also provided an appropriately macabre outfit, so Wednesday quickly changes.  They are just leaving when Eugene (the beekeeping boy) shows up, livid over being dumped for the cave stake out.  Xavier (the monster-drawing boy) is also livid. 

Scene 10:
The dance.  Roommate arrives with Lucas, the Mayor's Son.  She accidentally spills punch on his crotch, then kneels to clean it up, so her crush Ajax (Georgie Farmer) sees him and thinks she is giving him a blow job.  

Background characters are all male-female couples.

Still 13 minutes to go, but why continue?  There are no LGBTQ people here.  Not one.  Not even a glimmer of subtext.  

So much for the inclusivity of The Addams Family.

Update:  One of the boys has two mothers, and when Uncle Fester visits, he says that Tyler has "clocked" him, but Wednesday immediately says "Tyler is not intersted in you."  Fester is on the run from the law, so maybe he means "noticed that I'm a fugitive," but Wednesday's comment suggests that romantic interest (he's 18, so ok for an adult to date).  

And that's it.  Miniscule representation.  Heterosexuals all the way down.

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