Jan 28, 2023

"Daniel Spellbound": Gay Subtext Between Tracker Boy and Half-Demon. For Awhile, Anyway


Netflix has been pushing Daniel Spellbound at me: a Canadian animated adventure series about a teenage boy who works as a spellcaster, tracking down magical implements for his clients. I've been rejecting it in spite of hunk who pops up when you google creater Matt Fernandes, because because Daniel is partnered with a girl, so it's bound to be hetero-romance all the way down. Also the one-eyed talking pig freaks me out.  But in the second season, several male names are mentioned, so I decided to try out the episode where "Jace tries to make good his deal with Daniel."  Jace is a boy's name, right?

Scene 1: Two boys, a girl, and the pig is on a ship, fighting glowing sea monsters.   Lucy almost falls into a gaping mouth, but she is rescued by Jace, demonic being with purple skin, a sharp face, and one and a half horns.  Daniel (Alex Barima), who has black curly hair and wears a red cap, rescues the talking pig.

As more monsters approach, Daniel wishes that they had their teleporting ice cream truck, but it sank.  Jace the Demon (Al Mukadam) immediately dives into the ocean  -- did he abandon them?  No, he went to fetch the ice cream truck!  They pile in, Jace demonizes it into working, and they plow through the monsters and fly away.

Scene 2:
They materialize on a giant monolith (and almost fall off).  "Wait -- this is the Outpost!" Daniel exclaims.  "I can't be here!"  Jace the Demon touches his arm and explains that he brought them here so Daniel could keep his promise and track his Untrackable (don't know what that is).  "But I didn't know it was in the Outpost!"  

Back story: Daniel and the Pig snuck into Kel's high-security compound using a Dowser, which is against Tracker Code and got him re-jousted.  (Don't know what that means).  Bottom line: Kel hates him.

"Don't worry," Jace the Demon says.  "You're with me now."  So they're canonical boyfriends?  "I'll handle Kel."

Scene 3: Jace the Demon and Lucy walking through a room full of glowing cubes on pedestals.  Jace summons Kel, a cadaverous humanoid with a stereotyped gay-sophisticated accent.   Uh-oh, he knows that they brought Daniel -- there's a video on his cell phone?  

"They're with me!" Jace the Demon exclaims.  "If you want to keep my family business, you'll leave them alone!  I came for my Untrackable Unseeing Eye of the Cyclops."

But first they have to do a job for Kel, to pay him back for Daniel's losses.

Scene 4:
 A boy-boy couple leaves a pie shop, each with a whole pie, and discuss how deliciously decadent it is. (They each get a whole pie?)  They turn purple and float off into the clouds.  Huh?

Meanwhile, back at the ice cream truck, the Pig (actually a human under a spell) snits around, criticizing Jace the Demon.  Daniel defends him:  "He got turned half-demon and stuck in a Soul Box.  Naturally he'll be a little off.  But he's a nice guy."  What do you like most about him, Daniel?  His dreamy eyes or his studly physique?  "And he's trying to help us."

Pig: "Au contraire, he's trying to help you!  And then you'll abandon me and run off and be happy little Trackers together!"   Daniel promises to help Pig turn back to human.

Suddenly Cadaverous Kel teleports in, announces that "it's payback time," and zaps Daniel and Pig into a ....bar?  Goons surround them, including a half human-half spider guy in a flowered muscle shirt.  Daniel stalls by announcing that he has an Untrackable...well, Jace has it.  They all laugh.  "Dude, Jace is dead!"  He spins the Wheel of Punishment to see what will happen to the heroes.

Scene 5: Lucy enters the pie shop from Scene #4 and asks the elderly lady behind the counter for some Witching Silver: an essential ingredient in magic food and astral projection.  So the customers project their spirits to the pie shop?  Why not just call for delivery?  But it's for witches only.  "I just need it to help find the Sceptre of the Primus!" Lucy explains.  So she needs silver to find the scepter to give to Kel so he'll give Jace the Demon his Cyclops Eye.  Are you taking notes?

The elderly lady closes the shop and orders her baker-goons to attack Lucy!  She could have just said no.

Back at the bar, Daniel is forced to spin the Wheel of Punishment.  It lands on Tickle Pit: "A merciless death trap that no one has survived."  

Daniel and Pig are tossed in, and one of the goons accidentally falls in.  They are strapped into theater seats. An androgynous clown performs.  Goon starts laughing, and the crown rushes up, turns monstrous, and eats his soul. Daniel and Pig try to avoid laughing. 

I'm out of space, so I'll stop the scene by scene there.  Besides, you really need to watch this show from the beginning to understand the complex mythology.  But after Jace comes to the rescue, he and Daniel have a hand-on-shoulder moment, and Pig storms out in a jealous rage. 

I doubt that Daniel is canonically gay, but he and Jace have a definite subtext.  At least in this episode.

Spoiler alert: 

Jace turns evil later on, and the two and their teams have a Final Confrontation.  It was nice while it lasted.

Jan 27, 2023

Beetle Bailey's Boyfriend

In 1950 Mort Walker started the newspaper comic strip Beetle Bailey, about a lazy, inept student at Rockview University.  The large cast of characters included students, faculty, and Beetle's longsuffering family (his sister eventually married and spun off into her own strip, Hi and Lois).

College humor didn't attract many reader, so on March 13, 1951, Walker had Beetle join the army.  He was stationed at Camp Swampy in South Carolina, where he has stayed ever since, still lazy and inept, still surrounded by a colorful characters: girl-crazy Killer, intellectual Plato, dimwitted Zero.

And Sarge -- Sergeant Orville P. Snorkle, Beetle's platoon leader.

Their relationship was antagonistic -- Sarge often yelled at Beetle and pounded him into a pulp -- but affectionate.  They were often shown hanging out together as friends.

Or more than friends.

As the years passed, and especially after Mort Walker's sons, Neal, Brian, and Greg, took over the writing in the 1980s, the homoromantic subtext became increasingly important to the plotlines.

Many gags involved Sarge's total lack of interest in women.

Beetle dated girls, but less and less frequently, as strips hinted that his main interest lay in the masculine as well.

Beetle exhibited a freedom of speech and action that no other soldier had, relishing his special place in Sarge's life.

They used blatantly romantic vocabulary and themes.

A number of strips hinted that Beetle regularly shared Sarge's room, or his bed.  Left: why are Sarge and Beetle in their underwear, in a room with a couch and a tv?  

Other characters treated them as a couple.

For instance, the top photo: "What do you see in Sarge?"  That's an odd question to ask about someone's commanding officer, but not at all odd if you are wondering why Beetle finds him attractive.

Or below, when the camp chaplain asks 'Can't you find better things to do than fight all the time?", overtly engaging in couple's counseling.  They consider some options, like going out to dinner and exploring the bright lights of the city, but can't think of anything more fun, exciting, and erotic.  At least, nothing that you can show in a family strip.

Their fights became the standard squabbles of comic-strip couples, where physical violence demonstrates affection rather than hatred.

The question is, were Mort Walker and his sons aware of the subtexts?

Doubtful -- bickering buddies are a comic strip staple.

Still, we have to wonder about the August 19, 2013 strip, with Beetle looking for the blue skies over the rainbow.  Sounds like he's coming out.

"Lockwood & Co.": A Teenage Mulder and Scully, with Mean Ghosts


Netflix has been pestering me to watch Lockwood & Co., about teenage paranormal investigators, for weeks.  It finally dropped this morning.  Here's hoping there are gay characters.

Scene 1: Teenage Anthony and Lucy approach a mansion, discussing strategies.  Their client, Mrs. Hope, meets them outside: she needs the disturbance cleared up so she can sell the house.  She criticizes them for being paranormal investigators instead of "chasing boys and having fun," and leaves.  She wants Anthony to chase boys?

They enter, make tea in the kitchen, and read the report: Mr. Hope died after falling down the stairs.  But the manifestations are rather aggressive, as if he was murdered.

They find a manifestation in an upstairs study that used to be a bedroom: a woman reliving her murder years ago, before the Hopes moved in.  Suddenly she tries to push Lucy down the stairs  That's how Mr. Hope died!

Intro: The intro gives us the background through newspaper headlines: we're 50 years into The Problem, where ghost began manifesting at night, and killing people.   So there's a curfew, and since kids are better able to detect them, a new coterie of teenage ghost-busters.  Who you gonna call?  A high schooler!

Scene 2: Three years ago, a rustic English village with bleating sheep. Lucy and her mother are being interviewed by a ghost-busting agency. Mom praises her paranormal powers; Lucy looks bored.  An operative was killed yesterday, so there's an opening; Lucy is hired.  

Someone else handles the paperwork: Lucy is 13, just old enough to be an operative, qualified as a Listener for both Type 1 and Type 2 visitors.  The payments will go into Mom's account.

Scene 3: Out on the street, Lucy complains "I don't want to do this!  It's too scary.  I don't want to be scared all the time."  Mom: "Everybody's scared all the time.  We need the money, so shut up and fight ghosts!"

Scene 4: In uniform, Lucy starts her training with a blue gunk-mixing class: "Spill any, and it comes out of your salary!"  Then making a ghost-bomb of sand, salt, and silver fulminate, and unrattling chains.  Lucy has a sarcastic female friend, but there are no cute boys except in the background. 

 First assignment: six team members head to the Swan Hotel, where there are unpleasant sensations on the top floor.  Lucy finds the spirit and incapacitates it with ghost-bombs.

Afterwareds, in the locker room, a cute boy in a muscle shirt compliments Lucy's technique.  Finally!  But he's just background.

Sword class, an assignment in a schoolroom, and two years have passed.  Lucy has reached Level Three!  Everyone applauds.

Scene 5: Lucy returns to the dorm room and sits on the bed next to her roommate, Norrie.  Hey, they're awfully close.  Maybe a lesbian subtext?  They complain about working for the agency until their powers fade, in their mid-20s, only to find that their parents have squandered their money.  "Let's run away together -- to London!"   But Lucy wants to wait until they are fully qualfied. Look at how close their faces are.  They could kiss at any moment!  

Scene 6:  Next assignment: Moorgate Mill needs to be cleared.  They discuss Maria Fittes, the original ghost-buster who discovered the link between visitors and sources, and the only person ever to vanquish a Type Three.  The Cute Boy  -Paul-- suggests that maybe Maria didn't solve the problem, she created it.

Sorry for the lack of illustrations, but I can't find beefcake photos of anyone in the cast.  Paul isn't even listed in the IMDB.

Uh-oh, this visitor is Type 2, much more powerful.  Lucy runs out to tell the boss, but he dismisses her; "Just do your job."  She goes inside -- the other agents are screaming and dying, and her girlfriend Norrie is catatonic, but the boss doesn't help.  He locks them in!  Wait, I thought Type 2 was commonplace.  At her interview, Lucy said that she was qualified to see both Type 1 and Type 2. 

Scene 7: At the inquest, the boss claims that Lucy never told him that it was a Type 2, so he acted according to protocol.  "And you didn't hear any screams or cries for help?" the judge asks.  "No."  The four dead agents' names are added to the memorial outside.  Norrie will remain catatonic --  ghost-locked -- forever. Lucy is fired.  I didn't know that this series was going to be Lucy-centric.  What about Anthony from Scene 1?

Scene 8: After Mom finishes yelling at her, Lucy runs away to London.  She applies at the Fittes Agency, the biggest in the country, but she has no certification or parental permission, so no dice.  The same story at three other agencies. 

The last agency on the list: Lockwood and Co.  A cute curly-haired boy, George, answers the door and ask if she's Arif's new girlfriend.  (Arif runs the donut shop on the corner.)  No, she's an applicant.  

He leads her to the drawing room, where Anthony complains that they have already finished with the interviews.  "No, there's one more."  He turns around and jaw-drops in Girl-of-My-Dreams hetero-horniness.  "Um...er...where shall we go on our honeymoon...I mean, you're hired."  

George grimaces.  "Let's test her first."

"Ok, first test: Do you like walking hand-in-hand in the rain?  Um..I mean, analyze this apparition in a jar."  

"Easy.  The skull is the source, the ghost is tied to it, and trapped by the silver in the jar lining."

"Next test.  Do you kiss on the first date?  Um, I mean analyze this knife."

"Not violent.  This belonged to someone happy, gentle."

"Very good.  Next test.  Are you free tomorrow night?  Um...I mean analyze this watch."

"A lot of negative energy.  Many people screaming.  Lots of murders."

Obviously she gets the job.  George acts like the wife in a male-female couple, doing the cooking, fetching the tea, fussing about housework.  Plus he's obviously and overtly jealous of Lucy.  Definite gay subtext here, in spite of Anthony constantly insulting him.

Scene 9: Anthony explains: they're a new agency, accredited, but independent, so they can set their own rules, and they don't need adult supervisors. 

He gives her a tour of the house: office, Anthony's room (drop by any time!), George's room (don't go in without knocking, in case he's doing yoga naked), off-limits super-secret room, library, kitchen, training room, arsenal, attic -- and Lucy's  room, with private bath and a view.

"Well, I'll leave you to get settled in," he says, staring longingly as if he wants to rush over and kiss her on the spot.

Scene 10: Lucy unpacks, thinks about her catatonic girlfriend, and goes downstairs.  She runs into George in his underwear (no beefcake), gazes at the forbidden room, and goes into the library to flirt with Anthony: "how do I know you're good enough for me?"  

There's more, but that's enough to give you the gist: a boy-girl couple and their bumbling sidekick fight evil ghosts, with gay subtexts all around.

Jan 26, 2023

"Extraordinary": Mildly Pleasant Superhero Farce with Confusing Trans References and No Gay Friend


The icon for Extraordinary, a sitcom on Hulu, features Ashly Tisdale from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody in an apartment surrounded by friends, two guys and a girl.  No doubt one of them is gay, so I reviewed the first episode.

Spoiler alert: it's not Ashley Tisdale, it's Máiréad Tyers.

Scene 1: Not Ashley Tisdale, a red-haired woman named Jen, is applying for a job.  This is a world where almost everyone has a superpower, and the interviewer's thing is having people say exactly what they are thinking, so she mentions masturbation, defecation, menstruation, and being lazy.  But she doesn't get the job because she has no power of her own yet.  It usually comes in at 18, but she's 25, and nothing.  This makes her feel inferior.

Scene 2: She goes out into the streets of London, where people are flying, levitating, and so on.  

That night, she has sex with a hot guy, Luke (Ned Porteous, top photo).  Extensive beefcake shot!  She invites him to her sister's 18th birthday party, which freaks him out.  While she's on the toilet, he jumps out the window!  (He can fly, so he's just trying to escape).

Scene 3
: A blond woman is working for a barrister by channeling a dead guy, who complains that his heirs are all wankers.  

 Meanwhile, Jen returns to her apartment (so the guy who flew away was in his own apartment?) and greets her quirky gay roommate, Kash (Bilal Hasna).  He's wearing a superhero costume that reads "Super Cock."  Uh-oh, it's supposed to be "clock," but the "l" fell off, plus his bulge is too blatant.  So he turns back time and tries to change clothes before Jen comes in.

Wait, he's not the gay roommate, he's blond woman Carrie's boyfriend.  They kiss.  Three down.  One more member of the gang to introduce.  He'd better be gay.

Jen is distraught over having no superpower, so Sister Carrie tries to cheer her up by channeling Adolph Hitler, so they can insult him.

Scene 4:
Jen has a Tinder date with Gordon, who presents as a woman but uses he/him pronouns  (played by Eros Vlahos.  The actor identifies as a straight male.).  His superpower is causing orgasms in anyone he touches.   It first appeared when he shook hands with his father....

Scene 5: Sister Carrie and Quirky Kash walking hand in hand to dinner.  Kash thinks that A.D. stands for "After Dinosaurs."  That's not funny, it's idiotic. Her shoes hurt, so Kash gives her his shoes, and walks around in socks.  Awww...  

Switch to Jen and Gordon having sex.  They stay fully clothed, and he puts his gloved hand inside her to prove that he can do it himself, not rely on his power.  It takes forever, Jen is bored, she pretends to orgasm. Later, when he is asleep, Jen tries touching him to get an orgasm, but the cat comes in and....

Scene 6: Jen, Sister Carrie, and Quirky Kash in bed, eating cereal and watching American Dad.  Hey, an actual contemporary cartoon, not a public-domain 1930s dancing-flowers thing.  She's late for work, so she nipple-twists Kash into turning back time.

Scene 7:
Jen in a Cinderella costume at her job at the Party Hamlet. Her coworker Tim (Daniel Tiplady) is wearing a bear costume and blowing up a balloon fish.  Mean Boss Angela, whose superpower is looking 16 forever,  storms in to demand to be invited to her sister's 18th birthday party.  

Is Tim the fourth friend?  He only gets a few lines.

Scene 8: Jen in an Uber with a giant balloon.  The driver's superpower is telling you when and how you will die.  She doesn't want to know, but he tells her anyway: "Bears."   Dad calls to tell her knock-knock jokes.  Plot dump: The 18th birthday girl is actually Jen's half-sister, with a different father.

The party: a lot of middle-aged women listening to Sister Andy play the violin.  She tells Jen that she got an audition for the Greenwich Conservatory.  This makes Jen angry.  Mom told Jen to bring balloons, but then went out and got them herself.  This makes Jen even angrier.  

Sister Andy blows out the candles on her cake and immediately starts checking for her superpower.  The adults cheer her on. Why 18?  It's a socially constructed milestone, not connected to biology.  Starting at puberty would make more sense.  Nothing happens, so she storms off in a snit.  But then super-strength suddenly emerges!  Everyone is amazed.

Upset because Sister Jen is getting all of the attention (at her birthday party?), Jen storms out.  

Scene 9: Jen shows up at the home of Luke, the guy who jumped out the window to avoid her in Scene #2.  Not the best idea: he's having dinner with another woman.  Jen invites herself to join them. 

The other woman notes that her power is shape-shifting. Jen insults her: "Oh, that's why you look like that."  Then she talks Luke into giving her a flying-ride, but it's too scary.  He gives her advice: "If you don't love yourself, how will you love somebody else," rather a nonsequiter, before flying off. 

She calls Dad to complain about not having a power.  "So what?  Most powers are useless anyway. Accept yourself as you are."  

But she insists, so he suggests a clinic where people can discover their powers.

Scene 10: Jen and Sister Carrie arrive at the clinic.  It's quite elaborate; evidently a sizeable percentage of the population has no powers. But the discovery package costs 9.500 pounds!  They decide to DIY it. The end.

 Luke's chest and Kash's bulge.  

Gay Characters: I haven't seen any yet, but the fourth person in the icon, Luke Rollaston, has yet to be introduced.  He plays someone named Jizzlord; maybe he's the gay friend.

Gay References: Jen complains that Luke's advice is a quote from RuPaul, so they're both familiar with Drag Race.

Is Dad Trans?  While Jen is talking on the phone to her Dad, she asks if she can do "the thing."  He says ok.  She walks into the bedroom, and there's a middle-aged woman there, whom she hugs.  So is Dad's power teleporting? Is he trans or a drag queen?  I'm confused.

My Grade:  Jen is rather a snit, there are too many female and not enough male characters (why does she need so many sisters?), and why get so upset over not having a power?  Most of them are mundane, like being able to change tv channels without using the remote.  C.

Update: Jizzlord is a shape-shifter who turned into a cat three years ago and got stuck.  He doesn't remember anything about his past, and has difficulty re-adjusting to human life. I doubt that he will be portrayed as gay.

Homophobic Panic:  When Jizzlord reverts to human form after three years as a cat, he is so overjoyed that he rushes up and hugs Quirky Kash, who recoils in disgust.  I'm not sure this counts as homophobia; if a naked lady rushed toward me, intent on hugging, I'd run the other way, fast.  

Jan 25, 2023

A Gay Subtext in a Movie from Saudi Arabia


The trailer for the Saudi movie Al-Khallat (2023) showed what looks like a gay scene: a young man is hugging a flamboyant older man, who tells him that "everyone in Asia" will know.

No way!  Saudi Arabia is the most homophobic country on Earth.  The signs must mean something totally different there.

The movie has four interlocking segments about deceptions that go wrong.  In the fourth,a father and young adult son are staying in a fancy hotel.  (Only four names are given on the IMDB, so I don't know who they are.  The top photo is of a random Arab hunk.)

Son goes downstairs to a club called Cloud Ninety-nine (in English), and sees his favorite Soccer Player wearing a mink coat and multiple feminine rings, talking to girls who aren't wearing hijabs -- scandalous in the conservative Muslim country -- and drinking -- completely illegal!  

Nevertheless, he tries to get a photo: one with the two of them together, so "everybody in Asia" will know that he's met the sports great. "Ok, but not with any girls or booze in the background, or I'll be disgraced forever."

Before he can take the non-girls, non-booze photo, Son is swept into a private room with Soccer Player's entourage, sits next to him, gets pawed and hugged and encouraged to drink and dance with girls.  He refuses, his adulation of Soccer Player waning, and finally rushes out.  Soccer Player follows.

Meanwhile, Dad wakes up, goes downstairs, and sees his son chumming it up with the Soccer Player.  He is horrified, thinking that the boy is drinking and dancing with girls, and snaps a photo to use while condemning him.

But Son is innocent.  He breaks away from the tempting Soccer Player and returns to his father.  They use the picture to blackmail him: give up girls and booze, ask Allah's forgiveness, or the photo goes viral and his career is over.  They also want 15,000 riyals ($3000) to cover an earlier plot complication.

Obviously it was unintentional, but we can find a gay subtext in the Soccer Player's feminine affect and his interest in "corrupting" the Son, in spite of the corruption involving dancing with girls.

Jan 24, 2023

One Night in Bangkok, Three Hundred Nights at Mugi

From 1985 to around 1993, I was in Mugi, the gay Asian bar in Hollywood, at least once a week, sometimes twice.  Probably 300 times in all.   And every single time I was there, they played "One Night in Bangkok."  It was ingrained into my brain; even today I often catch myself singing:

One night in Bangkok, and the world's your oyster.
The bars are temples, but the pearls ain't free.

Oddly enough, when I visited the real Bangkok in 1988 to "rescue" Alan, I never heard the song once.

I guess the owner was a little short on Asian-themed pop songs.  "One Night in Bangkok" was composed for the musical Chess (1984).

Yes, there was a musical about chess.  It was based on the match between chess superstars Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at the 1972 World Chess Championships,an American and a Russian, one of the epic battles of the Cold War.

I haven't seen it -- reviews complain that it is over-long, over-wrought, clunky, and exceedingly dull.  And it sounds rather homophobic. .

Chess champion Freddie Trumpeter (played by Murray Head in the British version and Philip Casnoff in the American) must face gay "accusations."  His father states that he's "probably queer," and his Soviet opponent, Anatoly (Tommy Korberg, David Carroll) calls him a "fruit" (a "nut" in the American version), and steals his girlfriend.

"One Night in Bangkok" appears on the night before an early match between Freddie and Anatoly.  Freddie wanders around town, trying to stay focused.

He dislikes Bangkok, "Oriental city," with its "muddy old river," its decadence, and its evil: "I can feel a devil walking next to me."

He disapproves of the drag queens: "the queens we use would not excite you."

And especially the feminine gay men: "you'll find a god in every golden cloister, and if you're lucky, then the god's a she."

Not the message you want to send to patrons of a gay Asian bar!

But at least gay people and transvestites are mentioned, a rarity in the 1980s.

See also: The Theme Song of 1000 Nights in a Leather Bar.

The Best Week of the Best Month of the Best Year for Music

The best year for music was 1977, the best year March, and the best week March 14th-20th  It's a scientifically proven fact.

I was a junior at Rocky High, 16 years old (but not able to drive yet).  I had learned that gay people exist last November, but I hadn't figured "it" out yet.  I don't remember anything specific from that week, but probably Darry and I worked on our heroic fantasy novel, Verne the Preacher's Son and I double-dated, I ran around the track during free days in gym class, I read poetry at Writers' Club and practiced for the jump quiz.

And dreamed of a world where I didn't have to answer the question "what girl do you like?"every five seconds.  I dreamed of freedom.

And I listened to the radio.

1. "Evergreen" (Barbara Streisand, the theme from A Star is Born.  My brother was obsessed with that movie, and played the sound track over and over.  Whenever I hear it, I think of him, how he was the first person I came out to, and how he was ok with it, in small-town Illinois in 1978

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air

2. "Fly Like an Eagle" (Steve Miller Band)

I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea.
I want to fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.
Oh, there's a solution.

I wanted to fly like an eagle, out of Rock Island and over the prairie to where the lights were bright and there was joy everywhere.

3. "Dancing Queen" (ABBA)

You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen.
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life

I was only sixteen, and Nazarenes thought that dancing was a sin.  Probably jiving, too.  This song offered a glimpse of a seductive, alien world.  Maybe I wanted to be a dancing queen.

4. "Year of the Cat" (Al Stewart)

There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

Many songs of the 1970s were about time passing quickly, your life slipping away into nothngness.  I didn't understand then.  Now I do.

But in 1977 I was more interested in the hidden door.  What secret world did it lead to?  A disco full of dancing queens, perhaps?

5. "Go Your Own Way" (Fleetwood Mac)

You can go your own way,  go your own way
You can call it thunder. 

At least, that's the way I heard it.  I wanted to go my own way, avoid the trap of job-house-wife-kids, find freedom, and call it thunder.

6.  "The Things We Do For Love" (10cc)

Like walking in the rain and the snow
When there's nowhere to go
And you're feelin' like a part of you is dying
And you're looking for the answer in her eyes

Of course I know it's heteronormative now, but in 1977, who cared?  I always was looking for the answer in someone's eyes.  Or someone's bulge.

7. "New Kid in Town" (Eagles)

The Eagles was a group for "real men," an antidote to the glistening feminine disco crowd.  I can't help it that their songs were always so wistful and melancholic.  I wanted to walk away and escape the constant gossip.

There's talk on the street; it's there to remind you
It doesn't really matter which side you're on.
You're walking away and they're talking behind you.
They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.

8. "Hotel California" (Eagles)

"Relax," said the Nightman. "We are programmed to receive.  You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

I was trapped in Rock Island, trapped in a heteronormative prison, and there was no way out.

9. "Carry On, Wayward Son" (Kansas)

Kansas was another group that specialized in sad songs about the futility of life, just what an angst-ridden not-yet-out adolescent wanted to hear.  Except I couldn't figure out how you could "carry on" and "be gone" at the same time.

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are gone
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

I'm starting to get depressed.  Here are some swimmers celebrating a victory.

Uh-oh.  Now I'm thinking of Queen: "We are the champions, my friend..."

Howard Cruse: Gay comics at their most depressing

I first heard of "Howard Cruise" in the early 1980s, when the Advocate featured his comic strip Wendel.  I thought that it was a nom-de-plume, a play on "cruising."  Turns out that it's really his name, but spelled "Cruse."

Wendel was an average-looking, not-too-bright, but extremely well-hung gay guy getting himself into mildly amusing situations as he negotiated life in the gay ghetto of New York.  Cruising, dating, romance...interspliced with homophobia, AIDS, despair, pain, sadness....

Soon the mildly amusing situations were overwhelmed by the grim and heartrending.  No character -- or reader -- ever smiled or laughed again, as Wendel faced gay-bashing, breakups, debilitating non-AIDS related illnesses, homophobia, AIDS, death, death, misery, depression, despair, heartache, pain, death, death, death.

This cover of a strip collection shows Wendel, his boyfriend, and their son watching in dismay as murderous hands approach, and the voice on the radio says: "We red-blooded, God-fearing Americans know what to do with the degenerates in our midst."

Who could stand to read the thing?

Eventually Cruse squeezed all of the tears he could get out of Wendel, and put him out to pasture, turning to other depressing projects.  In 1987, Dancing Nekkid with the Angels appeared: Comic Strips and Stories for Grownups.  

For grownups?  Does that mean that the gloves would come off, that the glimmers of humor that occasionally appeared in Wendel would be gone, replaced by "life is endless pain, unremitting agony!"

Sorry, there aren't enough antidepressants in the world to handle that.  I ran.

Next came a graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby published in 1995.

Ok, the title was disgusting -- who wants to read a graphic novel about a rubber baby with needles sticking out of it?

Upon research, I discovered the title is actually an incredibly obscure reference to what happens when a condom (aka rubber) gets "stuck," allowing semen to escape and conception to occur.  That's even more disgusting.   And it doesn't seem like a problem gay people have often.

It is the semi-autobiographical story of a boy experiencing the unremitting agony of life while growing up in the 1950s South.  Of course, most everyone he meets want to kick him out of the house, beat him up, arrest him, or kill him because he's gay, but that's only the tip of the iceberg of the gloom and despair:
1. His parents die in an auto accident, naturally.
2. He has sex with a woman to "cure" his gayness, and gives up the resulting child for adoption.
3. His friend is murdered.
4. A community center is bombed, killing lots of his friends.
5. His other friend is murdered.

Ok, I get it: gay people are doomed to lives of constant pain, unremitting agony, sadness, heartache, depression, despair, tragedy, gloom, death, death, death, death, death.

Or is it everybody, just the human condition?

I just bought From Headrack to Claude, a compendiu of  Cruse's 1970s Barefootz underground comix, Wendel (of course), some Stuck Rubber Baby, some depressing one-pagers, and a send-up of the 1950s comic book Little Lulu.

Her traumatic memories involve child molestation, drug addiction, masturbation, fetishes, and...well, you get the idea.

Claude is about how all religious people are violent homophobes who want to kill us.


Look at this picture of a guy with washboard abs and huge veiny biceps.

Now try to convince yourself that life is unremitting agony.

Jan 22, 2023

"That '90s Show": Back to Eric Forman's Basement, 15 Years Later, with Gay and Nonwhite Characters


I only watched a few episodes of That 70s Show (1998-2006): I already lived through high school in the 1970s, so why bother?  But I saw enough to know the basic plot: a group of high schoolers, nerdish Eric Forman and girlfriend Donna, prettyboy Kelso and girlfriend Jackie, rebel Hyde, and foreign exchange student Fez, gather in Eric's basement to smoke pot, hook up, and make fun of Fez for being too feminine.  I only remember one gay reference: they give a guy two tickets to a rock concert, and he shows up with a same sex date!  The guys are disgusted, but Donna says "It doesn't bother me."   Apparently there's another episode, with Eric "mistaken for gay." but I never saw it. 

The sequel That 90's Show (2023), on Netflix, fast forwards to 1995, when a new group of teenagers led by 14-year old Leia  hang out in the Forman basement to smoke pot and hook up.  Only this time there are three non-white and one gay character, Ozzie (Reyn Do)  I reviewed the episode where he comes out.

Scene 1:  Ozzie is setting up a computer for the Grandparents.  Grandpa Red complains.  Grandma Kitty is excited but clueless.

Scene 2:
In the famous basement, Prettyboy Nate (17-year old Maxwell Acee Donovan) is showing Girlfriend Nikki an ad for a free hot tub.  "But it's contaminated with other people's juices!" she complains.  "Until we contaminate it with our juices!"  Hey, that's dirty! 

Meanwhile, Focus Girl Leia tells  Hunk Jay (18-year old Mace Coronel) that she wants to be "just friends."  He is distraught. Plot complication: she's actually interested, but too shy to admit it!

Fan plot dump: Leia is the daughter of Eric and Donna, and Jay is the son of Kelso and Jackie, all of whom have guest spots.  Hyde is never mentioned, and Fez is a swishy hairdresser.

Wait -- That 70s Show ended in 1980, and this is 1995.  Those couples worked fast!

Scene 3: Up in the kitchen, Ozzie explains to Leia that he's planning to come out to Grandma Kitty, as Step 7 in his 16-step coming out plan: first strangers, then people he doesn't see often, then people he sees all the time, and finally his parents.  In the 90s you didn't come out to anyone, ever, so this is quite ambitious.  

Scene 4:
  Prettyboy Nate and Hunk Jay go to investigate the free hot tub. Nate: "This is better than that time we found the nude beach...until we saw my coach doing lunges."  Jay: "This is what my life feels like right now: a sandy, saggy sack."  Hey, are they talking about his testicles?

They play "vagina hands": they put their hands together, open them up, and Jay shoves his face inside and ..um...hey, that's dirty!

The elderly lady who owns the tub suggests that they try it out first.  

Cut to the three of them in the tub in bathing suits.  She proceeds to flirt.  They are uncomfortable. Hey, writers, the actors are of age, but the characters are 14 or 15-years old.  This isn't funny, it's cringey,

Scene 5: 
 Leia wants to talk to Grandma Kitty about "a friend."  "Oh, I had a lot of 'friend talks' with Eric.  His 'friend" got a rubber band stuck on his privates."  Kitty is telling Leia that her father, as a teenage, put a rubber band around his genitals so he could maintain an erection longer?  What teenager does that?  Who would tell their granddaughter about it?  

Leia is cut off before she can tell what she really wanted to talk about: Ozzie's coming out.  But Grandma Kitty assumes that Leia intends to have sex, and anxiously calls her mother Donna.

Meanwhile, everyone else is gone, so Girlfriend Nikki and Riot Grrrl Gwen decide to smoke pot. I guess there has to be a smoking-circle in every episode

Later, Ozzie and Grandma Kitty are working on the computer, when Leia's mother Donna bursts in.  So they live nearby?  Why is Leia staying with the grandparents?  She brought "condoms, jellies, sponges, and the ugliest underwear I could find."  

Leia can't tell her that she's not intending to have sex, or everyone would want to know the real secret -- Ozzie's coming out -- so she goes along with it.  Ozzie plays along: "Leia is obsessed with sex.  She's drawing penises everywhere."

Scene 6: Having finished their pot, the girls wonder what they can do next.  Girlfriend Nikki: "There's something I usually do with my boyfriend, but I think it would be more fun with you."  Psych -- it's not sex, it's dressing up in glamorous costumes!  

Meanwhile, Mom Donna is giving Leia the "sex talk": "when a nay-nay's been in a na-na, it can't go in a hoo-hoo."  Of course, you always do the oral before the anal.

And back at the hot tub, the elderly lady is giving the boys advice on how to handle a lost love.  Suddnly her granddaughter bursts in and yells at her for tricking boys into taking their clothes off.  The hot tub is not really free after all.  "But I hae a free bed upstairs, if you'd like to try it out."   Beefcake shot as Hunk Jay climbs out.  Prettyboy Nate has his back turned.

Scene 7:  Ozzie and Leia in her bedroom, discussing how his coming-out moment is always being hijacked. "Why did you tell my Mom that I was constantly drawing penises?"  "I panicked, and that's what I was thinking of."  

Scene 8: Grandma Kitty and Ozzie in front of the computer, which is oddly on the coffee table rather than on a desk.  Finally time for the coming out moment: "I'm gay...I have a boyfriend in Canada."  That's funny, when I was in school I had lots of girlfriends in Canada.  

Kitty grimaces: "I don't know how I feel about this."  Ozzie cringes.  Psych!  She means the Canadian boyfriend.  What about Ozzie being gay?  "Oh, that...of course I'm fine with it."  They hug.

Scene 9:  At the non-basement hangout, the two girls are feeling guilty. "Did we..have fun?"  "Twice."  Hey, they had sex after all!  They agree to never mention it again.  Ozzie says that his next step is coming out to his pediatrician. Leia decides to tell Hunk Jay that she likes him, but it's too late: he's dating the perv lady's granddaughter!

Scene 10: Grandma Kitty catches Grandpa Red on the computer. He tries to cover the screen.  Is he watching porn?  Yes, sort of: a photo of 1960s it-girl Raquel Welch.  Kitty is happy that he's using the computer.  The end.

Beefcake: Apparently Hunk Jay takes off his shirt a lot.

Gay Characters;  In other episodes, Ozzie doesn't do much besides make sarcastic comments, but the show is about Leia, so he's lucky to get one centric.

Sex:  There were many more dirty jokes and innuendos than I expected.  It got uncomfortable.  These aren't Riverdale-style teenagers played by fitness models planning their 10th high school reunions.  Callie Haverda, who plays Leia, is 15, and Reyn Doi (Ozzie) is 13.  A little young to be discussing penises!

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