Jan 7, 2023

The Homoerotic Horror of Edgar Allan Poe

When I was a kid in the 1970s, Chuck Acri's Creature Feature broadcast a lot of very loose adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories: The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia.  They were all terribly cheesy.

I loved them.

And the original short stories, which I first encountered in a Scholastic Book Club edition of Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Groff Conklin, with a drawing of a naked man (by Irv Doktor) illustrating "Metzengerstein."

It's about a man killed by a ghost horse. The nudity was completely unnecessary, but certainly welcome.

Even without the nudity, the stories were amazingly homoerotic, male narrators visiting male friends to hear their tales of murder and madness, with few or no women around, except for a few husbands who hate their wives.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838).  Pym and his boyfriend Augustus stow away about a whaling ship and have adventures.  After Augustus dies, Pym hooks up with Richard Parker.  The two have more adventures.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839).  Roderick Usher and his sister are killed by the evil house.  His sister, not his wife!

 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841). The narrator and his buddy solve a murder.

 "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842). The narrator is tortured by the pit and the pendulum, but rescued by the strong arm of a French soldier.

(Left: ABC series with Edgar Allan Poe as a paranormal investigator.)

"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843).   The narrator (played on film by Stephen Brockway) "loves the old man," but kills him anyway.

"The Gold-Bug." (1843). The narrator, his buddy, and their servant search for buried treasure.

"The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)  Montresor gets revenge on Fortunato by walling him up.  But why is he so upset?

No wonder he was not mentioned in my class in American Renaissance Literature at Augustana, though he lived at the same time as Melville, Hawthorne, and Emerson.

But why was so much of Poe's poetry -- "Annabel Lane," "To Helen," "Lenore," "The Raven" -- about men mourning dead girlfriends?  (Left, Jeremy Renner in The Raven).

Maybe because if the women are dead, the men don't have to worry about any of that icky hetero-romance. 

Poe certainly spent a lot of time courting women through his life, but usually they were sickly or dying, like his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, whom he married in 1836, when he was 27.

Maybe he found some solace in glimmers of same-sex desire.

See also: The Gay American Renaissance.

Jan 3, 2023

Kaleidoscope: A Gimmick Caper TV Series with Some Gay Potential


Kaleidoscope, #1 on Netflix, is a gimmick-caper tv series: audiences "enter at different points in the story."  I don't know what algorithm decides what episode you start with, but mine started with lesbians.

Scene 1: An old guy in his underwear  (Giancarlo Esposito) says things like "No one can succeed alone.  You have to find a soul mate," while a woman researches Kate Soto: a lesbian, and into Dickens.  She orchestrates a meet-cute with a copy of Little Dorritt, takes Kate out to dinner, and steals her id card, which she uses to steal $2 million from the vault at her offce.  She and her partner Roger reports back to the boss. "We just walked out with this stuff.  Your security is terrible. You need to buy one of our custom vaults."

I guess she was just pretending to be a lesbian to make the score, and Kate Soto won't appear again.  All heterosexuals from here on out.

Scene 2:
The old guy, Leo, examining a list of jobs for his upcoming heist: :break, security, chem, wheels, and so on. For "supplies," he goes with Stan (Peter Mark Kendall), a cute curly-haired guy unloading raw meat from a walk-in freezer while his mother and sister or girlfriend yell at him: "Your parrot shit in the kitchen again."  He explains that he's going to use it in a complicated barter scheme.  They continue yelling and criticizing him.(The raw meat is for the bird).

Scene 3: Stan at his job in a deli loaded down with piggy banks.  Old Guy Leo enters; they hug enthusiastically.  "What's up, boss?" Stan asks.  He explains that he would love to go on a heist, but with Mom and sister or girlfriend yelling at him constantly, he's afraid to anger them further.  "But it's 7 billion dollars."  "I'm in!"

The heist: underground vault, plated steel, three cobalt doors, accessed through a secure subfloor, biometric sensors, military-trained security staff, where $7 billion in unsecured bonds are held.  The owners are The Triplets, three sleazy bankers:

1. Cho-Young Woo, a young guy in a pimp outfit, drinking with ladies.

2. The elderly Suzanne Grosvenor, who has Queen Elizabeth on her speed dial.

3. And the long-haired Swiss Stefan Thiele, whose bank is full of Nazi gold.  

Scene 4:
Roger (Rufus Sewell) from Scene 1, who runs a vault-making company, congratulates his team for a job well done.  "We've got the Triplets to buy our vault.  If they're happy, the rest of the town falls in line."  They sell more bank vaults?  He passes out assignments. 

Andrew, in charge of security audits, assigns the extremely hot Rajiv (Sathya Sridharan, top photo) to do the source code review. Uh-oh, Old Guy Leo tells Stan that he's got an inside man, and Andrew flashes a sinister smile.  He's a mole!

Scene 5: Back in the deli, Stan agrees to supply the gear for the heist, but he'll need $50,000 in seed money.  Old Guy Leo has that covered: they're going to do a preliminary heist for funding.  "Why are you doing this?" Stan asks.  "You're not interested in cars or yachts or..."   Old Guy Leo: "We'll get a billion dollars each, enough to fix everything that went wrong with our lives."

Scene 6:
A police lineup. The witness asks them each to say "I'm a fucking moron...and really try to sell it."  She picks one, takes off her wig, goes to a bar, and celebrates with Bob (Jai Courtney), another of the lineup guys, who has an Australian accent. "Next time just tell the cops that you didn't see anyting," he suggests.  They smooch five times.

She -- Judy -- heads to the back of the bar, where she is shocked to see...Deli Stan!  "You look amazing!" he exclaims, as another gay subtext bites the dust.  Aussie Bob comes back looking for her, and is not happy to see Stan.  "I told you never to come back to this town again!"  "But I have a guy who wants to hire Judy."

Old Guy Leo explains that the heist needs a chemist to make some lock burnouts and gas to incapacitate the guards, while Aussie Bob glares at them all.  He's not on th elist, but he insists on getting in on the action.

Scene 7: Hannah from Scene 1 in Vault Guy Roger's office, explaining that someone punched through their firewall.  He tells his assistant to put eyes on Andrew the Mole.

Scene 8: Hannah at home with her girlfriend or rommate.  Lesbian after all?  They're doing more background checks, so be careful: if anyone calls, act normal.

Girlfriend/Roommate wants to be a DJ in Berlin, but she doesn't have a job to save up money, so Hannah offers to set her up.

Scene 9: On the street, Old Guy Leo stops to flirt with a woman walking three dogs.  "All they do is fuck or fight," she complains. He wants to hire her to set up some shell companies and fence the take after the heist is over.  She can also handle security: she shows him her huge gun collection.  Another "Why are you doing this?" question.  Leo doesn't answer.  He suggests that they have sex.

Scene 10:
Looking for a driver, Old Guy Leo and Ava the Dog Lady visit a garage, where the mechanic RJ (Jordan Mendoza) is constantly tapping drumsticks. "He's a good kid.  Knows cars, knows tech.  And he's an auto racer, so he can drive." 

Scene 11: Six of the seven gang members gather to argue and insult each other, and list the supplies they will need for their parts of the heist.  They will need $350,000 to start off.

Meanwhile, at the Vault Company, Hannah tells Vault Guy Roger that the security breach came from inside the office!  Andrew glares at her.  After he leaves, she asks Hot Guy Rajiv about him.  

Scene 12: The preliminary heist: 90% of diamonds entering the U.S., worth $24 billion, show up on 47th Street in New York, Diamond Alley.  The gang ignites a lot of smoke bombs, dons gas masks, breaks windows, and grabs.  Aussie Bob is mesmerized by a tiara, lingers, and is shot in the hand.

Cut to Heather and her girlfriend/roommate watching a news story about the preliminary heist.  They discuss Heather's pregnancy and her deadbeat ex-boyfriend. So not a lesbian.  it's heterosexuals all the way down. 

Scene 13: Back at the hideout, they tend to Bob's wound and complain about his mistakes.  Can he crack the safe, now that his right hand is useless?  Cut to Heather showing her roommate her new job, in the Vault Company mailroom.  

Next she's called into a meeting with the Vault Company Boss.  The security breach was caused by an injectible keyboard.  But we put a "poison pill" in the data, so anyone who tried to retrieve it would be red-flagged.  It was Andrew the Mole!  "You're fired...get out."  And by the way, Heather gets his job as Senior Vice President.

By the way, Boss knows that she's pregnant because she switched to decaf.  His wife did the same thing when she was pregnant.  He's hetero too.

Scene 14:  Old Guy Leo talking to Heather.  OMG, Heather is the mole! She set Andrew up!  They discuss how time goes faster as you get older.  That's true.  When you're 60, the months just blip by.  I wonder how fast time goes when you are immortal.  She has second thoughts about the heist, now that she's pregnant, but Leo talks her into going through with it.

Beefcake: None so far.

Heterosexism: A few random kisses and discussions of boyfriends/girlfriends off camera.

Gay Characters: I'm still not sure about Heather.  Maybe she's bi.  Same with Stan: is that a sister or girlfriend yelling at him back home?   RJ has not expressed any heterosexual interest, but when you have to introduce 7 main characters, plus wives, girlfriends, sisters, bosses, and coworkers, there probably wasn't time.

Kaleidoscope:  So far the "kaleidoscope" seems linear and straightforward.  I'll have to see how other episodes, out of time sequence, augment the story.  

My Grade: B if any of the characters turn out to be gay or bi, C if it's heterosexuals all the way down.

Jan 2, 2023

Going to movies in 1997-98: English Blokes Bare It All, Elijah Wood Dies, Marky Mark Dangles, and Joey from "Friends" Gets Lost

 In 1997, I left California for New York, to enroll in yeat another Ph.D. program.  In the humanities, there was constant pressure to embrace only "art"; the grad students competed with each other to determine who had watched tv less: 

"The only thing I watch is opera on PBS."  "Oh, I watched the news once 10 years ago."  "I glanced at a tv screen once in a doctor's office waiting room, but immediately turned away." "TV?  Never heard the term before."

 In the social sciences, grad students and faculty didn't care: all art was garbage.  Richard III or Wacky Races, Mrs. Dalloway or Blondie and Dagwood, all was mindless trash, rotting your brain so you wouldn't be able to think Deep Thoughts about chi squares and logistic regressions.  So go to all the movies you want, but don't expect social scientists to lower themselves sufficiently to accompany you.   

The Full Monty.  Unemployed working-class blokes get the idea of making money by stripping (for women). Two of the blokes fall in love.  Actually, one of the grad students in my department did see this; she commented that she went with someone "who is not that way AT ALL," yet still thought that the gay romance subplot was "cute."  So only gay people can watch a gay romance without retching, but everybody can enjoy a boy-meets-girl story?  Heck, the two guys don't even kiss!

The Ice Storm.  Bored suburbanite swap partners while their son (Elijah Wood) dies in an ice storm.  I seem to remember Elijah being gay, but the wikipedia summary doesn't mention it.

October: Seven Years in Tibet.  I read the autobiography about a German soldier during World War II who flees into Tibet and becomes the tutor in all things Western for the young Dalai Lama.  The movie goes to great lengths to heterosexualize everybody, giving Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) a wife and estranged son back in Austria.  His  POW buddy (David Thewlis) eventually gets a wife, too.

October: Boogie Nights: the golden age of disco, drugs, porn, and giant penises, with Mark Wahlberg as Dirk Diggler (his giant penis is prosthetic).
There's a gay or bi character, but heterosexual romance saves the day.

November: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  On the evil side, a tawdry closeted "homosexual" is on trial for the murder of a "male prostitute" (he's acquitted, but dies anyway, because Bury Your Gays).   On the good side is Lady Chablis, a transwoman playing herself.  There's a heterosexual romance in the midst of everything, of course.

December: An American Werewolf in Paris,  Not a sequel to An American Werewolf in London, it actually involves a boy discovering that the Girl of His Dreams is a werewolf.  She belongs to a secret society of werewolves that eats his two friends.  So much for gay subtexts.

January: Star Kid.  It was science fiction, so why not?  Teen idol Joseph Mazzello finds a talking superhero suit that helps him save the world and...meet the Girl of His Dreams.  Ugh!

February: Mrs. Dalloway, based on a novel by Virginia Woolfe that I hadn't read, but I knew that she was gay or bi, and traveled in the gay-friendly Bloomsbury Group of early 20th century England.  During a long day fraught with depression, marital squabbles, and suicide, Mrs. Dalloway reflects on a lesbian affair in her youth, and Septimus feels guilty over the death of his boyfriend during World War I.

March: Wild Things.  Sounds like a 1980s sex comedy, but it's actually about a high school teacher who has sex with an underaged student and is accused of rape (which, legally, it was).  

Lost in Space. A film version of the 1960s classic sci-fi series about a family waylaid on the long journey to Alpha Centauri, with several of the old cast members doing cameos and hunky Matt LeBlanc as pilot Don West

April: Tarzan and the Lost City.  Audiences were expecting yet another rehash of the Tarzan origin story, not realizing that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote over 20 Tarzan novels. This one brings Tarzan (and Jane) to the lost city of Opar!

May: The Opposite of Sex.  A 16-year old girl, pregnant by her boyfriend, most in with her gay half-brother, and steals his dead lover's ashes.  Meanwhile his dead lover's sister, also pregnant, disapproves of him being gay because it's disgusting and all gay men die of AIDS and..at that point we walked out of the theater.  It was offensive all the way down, which is actually the tagline. 

June: None

 Smoke Signals.  Victor (Adam Beach) and Thomas (Evan Adams) are gay subtext buddies on the rez.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...