Feb 25, 2023

Desperately Trying to Decipher the Male, Female, Gay, and Ghost Characters of "The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim"


Hulu invited me to "continue watching" a Korean series called The Great Shaman Ga Doo Shim.  I swear I never heard of it!  But my last foray into shamanism, The Cafe Mindanang, turned out to be more about a profiler, so, I'll check it out.

I deduced the premise from the episode synopses: A high school girl named Woo-soo has mystical shaman powers, which in East Asia get you bullied and harassed.  So she keeps them a secret, and recruits her boyfriend Doo-shim and Il-ram (a boy), to help her fight demons. 

Il-ram has blond hair, so maybe he's gay.  Episode 5 -- "Il-ram fails the mock exams" -- sounds like a centric.

Scene 1:  During the exams, Woo-soo passes a note to boyfriend Doo-shim and nudges a sleeping boy to wake him up. Not blond, so not Il-ram.  Afterwards Doo-shim asks her why Doo-shin was going to a shaman shop....Ok, so he's not Doo-shim.  He must be an un-named boyfriend.

They discuss the murderer who is targeting lower-ranked students.  What if he targets Il-ram.  But if the sleeping boy was Il-ram, who's the blond?

Boyfriend complains that when they hugged, he acquired Woo-soo's ability to see vengeanceful and terrified ghosts, which is interfereing with his studies. 

Cut to Boyfriend in his room, trying to study, when the lights flash, and a roomful of ghosts appear.  He's too busy to help them move on to the afterlife, but he grudgingly agrees to listen to their stories: "I didn't know the water was so deep"; 'The truck was right behind us": "They told me that it would be a simple surgery."  Then he asks them for advice about his relationship with Woo-soo, and they all scram!  

Scene 2:  After school, Woo-soo runs into Doo-shim at the shaman shop, and tries to keep her from going in, to preserve her secret: "This is a very bad shaman, a fraud," she stammers. Then Mom comes out and asks "Why did you bring a friend?  I thought you didn't want anyone to know that you are the daughter of a shaman, Doo-shim!"  Wait -- I thought Woo-soo had the shaman powers, and Doo-shim was just a scoobie.  Are they both shamans, and hiding it from each other?  

Then the other girl asks Doo-shim what she thinks of Woo-soo.  But I thought...this is way too confusing. Wikipedia, help!

1. Doo-shim is the girl with shaman powers.  I should have guessed that from the title.

2. Woo-soo (Nam Da-reum) is her boyfriend, the one who gets the ability to see ghosts from hugging her.  Wikipedia calls him "the topper": he's rich, athletic, handsome, a top student, perfect in every way.  Top photo: Da-reum in the gay-themed movie No Breathing

3. Hyun-soo (Yoo seon-ho, left) is the blond guy in the icon, a playful ghost who provides comic relief and finally goes on to the afterlife.  Yoo Seon-ho played a trans character in the historical drama Under the Queen's Umbrella.

4. Lower-ranked Il-nam (Yoon Jong-hoon), the one who fell asleep, is actually the boyfriend's best friend, so there's probably a gay-subtext relationship going on.  The photo may or may not be Jong-hoon; Google Images says it is, but I can't get to the website to verify.

5. Hyo-shim is Doo-shin's friend who doesn't know that she has shaman powers.

A Google search on the title and gay reveals a website called Team Dramabeans, with Episode 6: "very well done, not just 'ha-ha, he's gay."  But I can't get to the website, so I don't know who is gay.  Maybe the ghost?

In Episode 6, Woo-soo and Il-ram fight, then hug, then say "Let's go somewhere together."  They flee from demons together, grab hands and wrists, pause to hug.  Definite gay subtext, but is either canonically gay?

No way to tell without watching more episodes, and I'm out of beefcake photos.

Feb 24, 2023

Cafe Minandang: Gay-Tease Fake Shaman with Gay and Superhero Scoobies

In Mu-sim, the Korean folk religion that predates Buddhism, female spiritual practitioners called mudang (shamans) perform rituals to cleanse you of sin, asks the gods for special favors, predict the future, and so on.  So naturally I was interested in the Korean series Cafe Minamdang, about a shaman who solves crimes, in spite of the disturbing icon of an overly-made up doll.

Scene 1:  Nam Han-jun (Seo In-guk), a rather feminine young man in a red suit, enters a giant tower hotel, followed by his assistant.  In his gigantic office, he drinks tea, sniffs on an air freshener, then uses a hidden camera to judge the physiognomy and auras of applicants for a managerial position: "He let someone else take the fall for him; she's a kleptomaniac; he's lying about his fluency in French."  A gender-atypical male shaman must be gay-coded.

When the Westerner Steve is interviewed, his aura is so strange that Han-jun can't read him remotely; he goes into the interview room and performs a shamanic ritual with a rattle and a fan.  Everyone is terrified.

The weird aura is not from Steve, it's from manager Ko Jun-won: "An angry ghost tells me that you coerced her into sex by promising her a full-time job, then fired her.  She killed herself because of you!"  The scoundrel is dragged out, and everyone applauds.  But why didn't Han-jun notice the angry spirit earlier?

Commercial:  Han-jun and his entourage skip through the streets of Mindamnang (apparently not a real place), spreading the word about his shaman service: parenting issues, romance, friendship, finances, any problem you have, he can solve. Plus, he says, he's the most handsome man in the universe!

Wait -- if he was just working as a consultant at the hotel, why did Han-jun have a gigantic office there?  I'm confused.

Scene 2:
While groupies (both men and women) wait breathlessly outside his compound,  Shaman Han-jun finishes his shower (no beefcake).  He wakes up Hye-Jun, a woman who does surveillance for the National Intelligence Service out of his spare room, for some reason, and complains about her bad smell.  Obviously Han-jun is not interested in girls. 

After getting coffee from his even more femme assistant, Nam-dan (Baek Seo-hoo), Shaman Han-jun winks at the crowd of groupies outside the gate.  Two girls faint.  "Sometimes it's tiring being so popular" he complains. 

Scene 3: The Cafe Minandang is really a coffee house, serving only Americanos to the giggling groupies. A middle-aged man and a cop come in.  Assistant Su-cheul makes the cop wait outside, and leads the Middle-Aged Man through a maze of corridors to Shaman Han-jun's throne room -- he's sittng on a throne beneath pictures of Korean gods, holding a fan

Shaman Han-jun already learned his problem from internet sleuthing and deduction: Middle-Aged Man cheated on his wife with a woman who turned out to be a con artist, and stole all of his  company's money.

Scene 4:  Computer Girl conducts online research to find the con artist and her boyfriend.  Assistant Su-cheul is assigned the task of tracking them down.  He's busy on another case -- running alongside a "pervert's" car, then punching through the windshield!  But then he finds the con artists in a parking garage, carrying luggage, getting ready to leave the country.  

Scene 5: Back at the interview, Shaman Han-jun yells at the Middle-Aged man for sinning against the gods, and then forces him to perform various silly, humiliating rituals.  I know they are silly because Han-jun is a fraud; he doesn't really communicate with the gods at all.  When he hears from Assistant Su-cheol, he sends Middle Aged man down to the "north entrance of the parking garage."  Wait -- thc con artists are in the same building?

Middle Aged Man rushes down to the parking garage with two cops.  They don't believe in this shaman nonsense, but sure enough, the con artist couple emerge through the north entrance!  The cops are now true believers!  But he's a fraud

Scene 6:
The two cops at work, discussing how great Shaman Han-jun is. Apparently they are main characters, played by Joon Man-sik and Heo Jae-ho (left).  A new recruit comes in, hidden so we don't see that it's a woman until the last minute.  They sneer and scoff at the idea of a lady cop, then tell her to go make coffee or file something while they rush off to a case. 

Scene 7: The two cops chasing a suitcase-carrying suspect through the warehouse district. Wait -- is this the con artist?  Did he somehow escape custody?  If it's someone else, why have them both carrying luggage?  Really confusing!

The cops are out of shape, and can't keep up.  Suddenly The New Recruit rushes past at super-speed, leaps over a truck, and grabs the perp.  Four of his cronies, armed with lead pipes, jump out of a van and attack.  She clobbers them.

Back at headquarters, Computer Girl and Shaman Han-jun are watching.  He gets a goofy expression: a superwoman!  Just his type! "I'm in love," he announces.  Darn, I figured he was gay.

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters: Shaman Han-jun gay-teased us right up to the moment where he fell in love with superhero New Recruit.  Maybe the super-femme assistant?

Superheroes: Assistant Su-cheoul and the New Recruit exhibit superpowers straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there's no indication that they are actually superheroes.  I'm confused. 

My Grade:  Han-jun is a sham shaman; his rituals are ridiculous; people who believe in him are superstitious fools.  This strikes me as rather disrespectful of the real spiritual tradition.  C.

Feb 22, 2023

"Fakes (Farzi): Counterfeiting Caper, Not in Farsi, with a Gay Tease


I read the Amazon original series Fakes (Farzi) as Farsi -- an Iranian tv series?  Actually, it's Indian.  But the first scene, with two muscular guys tied up and threatened, got my attention, so I reviewed Chapter 1, "Artist."

Scene 1: A tied, hooded guy squirming in the trunk of a car driving down an amazingly winding rural road. They arrive at a mansion, and some goons throw him in a room with his muscle-shirt friend.  A multiple-ringed hand asks "Mr. Artist" who created a counterfeit bill.

Scene 2:  The Artist, Sunny (Shahid Kapoor) working as a street painter: "Your portrait in five minutes, 500 rupees."   Huge effeminate pinkie ring, but since it's another culture, I don't know if it's gay-coding.  But his real income comes from faking the work of famous artists: "I have no choice. If the painter isn't famous, no one will buy it."  Montage of his various copies.

He visits his grandfather, a great artist who never sells anything, and instead publishes Kranti magazine,  But nobody's buying that, either.  Very strange seeing a modern flat-screen tv in an old-fashioned printing office. 

Grandpa's hands are shakig, so he asks Sunny to finish his drawing of a muscular, naked Thinker.  Let that Pride Flag fly, Grandpa!   They discuss going digital in order to better "awaken the masses." 

Scene 3: 
 Sunny and his friend Firoz (Bhuvan Arora) eating a snack. Sunny touches Firoz's crotch with his foot.  If you want to grope someone, your hand works better, dude. 

Flashback to the two as kids, helping sell Gradpa's magazine. But even back then, no one buys it, or they just buy it to wrap things in.  They try various ways to make money, but one year they have nothing to eat but buns.  

Scene 4: Kid Sunny and Firoz checking out ladies. Boo!  Wait, no, they're pricing purses, a briefcase, a jacket, a dog, and a car: "When you'r broke, the only thing you see is money."

Switch to the present.  Sunny smooching with a lady in a parked car, and asking why she is so beautiful.  There could still be a gay subtext, but I'm not sticking around to find out. There's too much else to watch out there.

Feb 21, 2023

Sad Sack

When I was a kid, I loved Harvey comics' supernatural titles, Casper, Spooky, and Hot Stuff having science-fiction and espionage adventures in the Enchanted Forest.  In a pinch, I didn't mind the kids-with-crazy-obsession titles, Little Dot, Little Lotta, and Richie Rich.  But I never even picked up Sad Sack.  

Military humor -- gross!  It was the middle of the Vietnam War.  Our fathers and older brothers were dying in Vietnam, or burning their draft cards and going into exile in Canada.  Who wanted to be reminded of all that?

But recently I came across an old book, The Sad Sack.  Apparently the character existed before Harvey Comics, in a pantomime strip published by Sergeant George Baker in the military magazine Yank during World War II.  The Sad Sack (short for "Sad Sack of Sh*) was a classic schmiel, beset-upon by bad luck, but tough, masculine, and sexually active (although here he's paying a woman to iron his pants).

Two hardcover compilations of Sad Sack strips appeared in 1944 and 1946.  There was a radio series (1946) starring Herb Vigran and a movie adaption (1957) starring Jerry Lewis.

Harvey took over the franchise in 1949, giving Sad Sack a voice, a nebbish personality, and surprisingly, a lot of shirtless and semi-nude shots (although he didn't have much of a physique).

 He was now a permanent private at Camp Calamity, so he would never go to war (like Beetle Bailey and Gomer Pyle), and he had a coterie of friends and superior officers, notably Sarge.

Sad Sack and Sarge have a "antagonistic best friend" relationship similar to that of Beetle Bailey and Sgt. Snorkel, with the same homoerotic subtext.

There were many spin-off titles, including Sad Sack's Funny Friends, Sad Sack's Gobs n Gals, Sad Sack and the Sarge, and Sad Sack Laugh Special.  Sounds like Archie spin-offs like Pals n Gals, and Laugh.

I never knew whether Sadie Sack was Sad in drag or just his girlfriend, but she turns out to be his female identical-twin cousin.  Rather a gender bender.

The Sad Sack title continued to be published for over thirty years, ending only when Harvey Comics folded in 1982.   so somebody was interested in Sad's chubby physique and buddy-bonding with the Sarge.

Just not me.

Feb 20, 2023

"Unfiltered": Brazilian Social Influencers, with a Gay Couple


In the old days, advertisements would be incorporated into the plot of the radio or tv program: "Before we discuss the problem of the week, let's have a cup of Maxwell House Coffee.  It's really the best coffee, isn't it?"  Today social influencers get paid for pausing their podcasts or TikToks or whatever to praise a product.  If they have 10,000,000 followers, they will reach more people than a tv commercial.   Still, the process seems bizarre to a Boomer who can barely handle Facebook, so I was interested in the Brazilian series Sem Filtro (Unfiltered).

Scene 1: College student Marcely listens to her favorite influencer, PI Love, bragging about her 20 million followers.   Then she goes into an economics class where a professor is asking about a huge, complicated mathematical formula.  Suddenly she has an epiphany: no more boring, useless college classes!  She's going to become an influencer like PI Love!  

Scene 2: Establishing shot of Ararinhas, Brazil. Marcely explains the idea to her two friends, Gustavo (a femme gay guy) and Rubria (a chubby drag queen).  They discourage her: it's a very competitive market.  Everybody with a cell phone thinks they can become an influencer. "But Sandrinha is making so much that she quit her job!"  I dig the representation, but where are all the masculine-presenting Brazilian hunks? 

Cut to Marcely burning bridges, by quitting her paid internship: "This job sucks and doesn't match my abilities."  Welcome to the work world, girlfriend.   

Not to worry, she tells her friends, she's already got an influencer gig: Fernandinho (Pedroca Monteiro) is paying her to introduce the Sheik Happy Meals at his new Arab restaurant.  (Left: Pedroca is gay in real life, and married to Michel Blois)

"So, does your Mom know about this?"  "Of course not! I'm not going to tell her until after I'm rich and famous!"

Scene 3: Marcely's Mom and sister come in. Character dump: Mom complains about everything, and openly prefers younger sister Lohana.  Drag Queen Rubria (Thamyris Borsan) is a permanent houseguest.  

Ex-Husband Mumu (Ora Figueiredo) comes in, and Mom starts yelling at him for spoiling the girls -- well, the older girl.  Goddess Younger Sister deserves to get anything she wants. Then she complains about Marcely's boss Fernandinho: his previous restaurant sold sushi stuffed with Nutella. 

Scene 4
: The Arab restaurant.  Ferdnandinho, culturally appropriating an Arab outfit, gives Marcely a Sheik Happy Meal: "But don't open it until your live stream at 8:00 pm."

Then Gay BFF Gustavo (Pedro Ottoni) picks her up in his van, and they meet with influencer Sandrinha.  Gustavo has a hula girl bobbler on his dashboard and a gay pride flag on the wall.  Mixed signals, dude!

Ulp: Sandrinha didn't really quit her job.  She made ony $30 US from influencing last month. 

Marcely is not dissuaded.  She quotes the Five Pillars of PI Love: Don't settle; go for it; it's possible; I did it; and you can, too.  Rather banal advice.

Scene 5:
They drop off Sandrinha at her job -- a beauty shop, I think.  Love Interest Max (Maicon Rodriguez) comes out to flirt, but is blocked by his comment that "you don't seem the influencer type."  

Driving on, Gay BFF Gustavo yells at Marcely for not sealing the deal with Coworker Max.  "I can't -- he has a girlfriend."  "A Canadian girlfriend."  So, fake?

Scene 6:  First step in being an influencer: makeup.  Marcely borrows some from her Perfect Sister  Lohana. 

Next step: a place to shoot.  She tries "the association," Gustavo's van, the barber shop, the grocery store where Mom works.  In the end she has to do it at home, while Mom is out. 

Complication: Ademar, the owner of the grocery store, accidentally tells Mom about the influencing gig.  She rushes home to kill Marcely (figuratively, I hope).

Scene 7: In the bathroom, Marcely begins her livestream and opens the Happy Meal: a jumble of kibbes ( she tries to hide her disgust), sfihas (even more disgusting), and a surprise desert, a turd (actually kofta covered with Nutella). Whoops, she can't eat it!  It accidentally falls into the toilet, and...and she breaks down and tells the truth about the other disgusting dishes.

Mom comes in, yells at her, and confiscates her cell phone.  

Scene 8
: Morning.  Marcely, Little Sister, and Drag Queen Rubria sleep in the same room.  Rubria never seems to get out of drag, so I'm guessing that she is actually transgender.  

Fernandinho  meets her to yell that she's ruined his Arab Happy Meal business. The only orders he got last night were from people wanting to use the nutella turds as props in nasty videos.  But everyone on the street is staring: she's famous!  

Gustavo and Mom's Boss work together to convince Mom to relent and allow Marcely access to social media again.  "She's brilliant!  She has no filter!"  Ok, but she has to go back to college, too.

She tries, but...there's that horrible economics class.  No way!  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters: Marcely's BFF Gustavo. He doesn't do anything gay in this episode except display a Pride Flag and be feminine, but that could change.  Rubria is probably a cishet character.

Heterosexism: Marcely has a brief Love Interest flirtation.

Poop Joke:  I could have done without the poop references, especially when it gets replayed over and over.

Update: In Episode 8, Gustavo starts dating Carlos, the assistant to influencer PI Love.  So two hand-fluttering femme stereotypes.  They do make a cute couple, however, and they kiss several times in Episode 10.  Marcely's Dad is also gay.

My Grade: B.

Feb 19, 2023

"Unlocked": Korean Girl and her Girlfriend, a Hunky Dad, and a Techie Killer

 Unlocked  (2023), not to be confused with Unlocked (2022) or Unlocked (2017),  is a Korean psychological thriller about a lost cell phone.  Maybe there will be some gay subtexts.

Scene 1: A young woman in uses her cell phone to check her appointments, text clients, order food, photograph friends, choose songs to play, order more stuff, check her bank account, film karaoke, and of course check out Netflix.  Late at night, on the way home, she accidentally leaves it on the bus -- unlocked.  A sinister hand picks it up.

Scene 2: A young man (K-pop star Yim Si-wan) wearing glasses (a sign of evil on Korean tv) fixes his breakfast, and of course posts a photo on Instagram.  The lost cell phone rings: it's Na-mi's friend, named Drop-Dead Gorgeous. So Na-mi enjoyes feminine beauty?  Gorgeous advises the young man to wait; she'll contact Na-mi and get back to him.

She climbs a scary circular staircase to Na-mi's rooftop apartment.  It's empty...except for the foot jutting out from under a table.   Psych!  Na-mi's not dead, just hung over.

While Eyeglasses Guy cyber-stalks Na-mi's social media, she explains that she doesn't remember anything after getting on the bus last night. Could she have been abducted?  And where's her phone?  Gorgeous lends her a phone so she can call Eyeglasses Guy. She asks him to bring the phone to the Cafe Mizi, in the Seogyo District (a bohemian-student area). 

Scene 3:
The police are putting a mutilated, long-dead body into a body bag.  Fingers cut off so it can't be identified. A container of plant food nearby.   The middle-aged Detective Woo (Kim Hee-won) searches through the woods, and finds another container of plant food and the name Woo Jun-Yeong on a wooden plaque.  Same last name.  Hmmm...

Back at the station,Detective Woo discusses the case with his Hunky Colleague (Jeon Jin-oh, left): "Jun-yeong is the killer?  Impossible.  He's an idiot!'  "Well, maybe one of his buddies did it."

They haven't spoken in seven years, so Detective Woo doesn't have his phone number.   He has to go through Missing Persons to find him. Big reveal: Detective Woo thinks that the killer is his son, Jun-yeong. 

I got in trouble once by insisting that the killer in the movie was the cop's son.  "No, they are obviously different characters," my friends insisted.  But the movie was deliberately misleading the cop is told to "go home and relax," and the next scene shows the killer's mother watching tv.  Who wouldn't conclude that it was the same person?

Scene 4: 
 Missing Phone Na-mi goes to work at the Cafe Mizi, an upscale coffee house, with her hot Dad (Park Ho-san).  Her passed-out night is all over social media by now, so he knows about it and advises slowing down.  

Eyeglass Guy calls: he accidentally dropped the phone and broke the screen, so he took it to Woo Repairs.  She can pick it up there. 

To get to the repair shop, you have to go through a dark, scary warehouse, up some stairs, and down a dark corridor. I'd be bringing about six friends with me.   Surprise: she is not going to be murdered.  It's really a repair shop, with Eyeglass Guy as the techie.  He repairs the phone, but installs a lot of sinister spyware.

Scene 5: Shots of Na-mi using her cell phone while at work, texting and sending photos to Gorgeous, discussing the homemade plum drink that Dad sometimes sells,  playing a video game, and so on.  Late that night, Eyeglasses Guy comes into the Mizi Cafe  and asks for the plum drink he had "last year."  They chat.

Dad is immediately suspicious; "Why on Earth would my daughter be chatting with a cute guy?  Something's wrong!"  Why, doesn't Na-mi usually like men?    

Scene 6:  Detective Woo and his Hunky Colleague discuss how to contact his killer-suspect son.  "Your dying ex-wife might have his number. ""No, she hates him more than I do!"  But her goes into her bedroom, where she is sleeping amid bottles of medicine and various "fatal illness" paraphernalia, and grabs her cell phone.  So he stole his dying ex-wife's cell phone? Not very nice.

She indeed has many texts from their Son, documenting frequent moves.  "Why do you move so often?" "To get away from my abusvive Dad, Detective Woo. And do not give him my phone number."

Scene 7: At home, Eyeglasses Guy eats his dinner (in tight closeups) while cyber-stalking Na-Mi.  He takes copious notes: what bus she takes, what she posts on her secret "Kirke" account, where she works.  Then he makes a list of the people in her life: Gorgeous two other friends,  Dad, her Boss. No cute guys on the list?  Is Na-mi not into men?  Taking a break, he looks at some photos of his last victim.

Scene 8: Detective Woo having dinner with his dying ex-wife.  "By the way, I think that our son is a serial killer.  Do you know where he is?"  

Meanwhile, Eyeglasses Guy surveilles Na-Mi while she has dinner with her five friends. All women.  This lady has no male friends, hint hint.  

Next,  sneaks into her apartment while she's at work to check it out, buys a cd of a group that she likes, gets business cards made up.  This is a lot of recon  to just murder someone.  He must want to destroy her life..  

Scene 9:
An escalator at a subway station.  An announcement: "For your safety, please refrain from using cell phones." And everyone is staring at cell phones! Har-har.  

Late at night, Na-mi is texting, when the door handle slowly starts to turn.  She anticipates a burglar, but it's Gorgeous!  "You asked me to come."  "No, I didn't, but come in anyway."  They spend the night together, hint hint.

Beefcake: None.  But no naked girls, either.

Gay Characters: Na-mi hangs around with women all the time, none of whom ever ask "When are you going to meet a man?"  When she gets tickets to a baseball game, she asks Gorgeous.  When Gorgeous intimates that she is interested in Eyeglass Guy, she scoffs: "Of course not!  Don't be ridiculous!" Do you need a scene set at the Seoul Pride Festival?'

Scenes of People Obsessed with Cell Phones: Lots.

Damsel in Distress: The person who is tied up, threatened, nearly drowned, and requires rescue is -- not Na-mi, not a boyfriend, but her Dad!

Plot Twists: Lots.  I don't watch a lot of psychological thrillers, but I was shocked by several of the Big Reveals.

My Grade: A.

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