Mar 4, 2023

Everybody Hates Chris

Everybody Hates Chris (2005-09),  loosely based on the childhood of comedian Chris Rock in the 1980s, was about a boy named Chris (Tyler James Williams) beset-upon by weird neighbors and a crazy family.  School is even worse; as the only black student at Corleone Junior High, he suffers both overt and well-meaning liberal racism.

True to the tradition of erasing black beefcake, no one disrobed on camera.  But there were nearly as many bulges as on The Jeffersons, and you could easily find shirtless and nude shots elsewhere.

Tequan Richmond, who played Chris's opposite, his supremely lucky and supernaturally attractive brother, posted many muscle pix on his website.  He now plays a teen hunk on General Hospital.

Terry Crews, the Dad, is a former football star with a bodybuilder's physique who often flexes in his movies (most recently he has done voice work on The Ultimate Spider_Man).

The word "gay" was never spoken, though once they used "androgynous" as a euphemism.  And, at least in the first season, Chris featured one of the strongest teenage homoromantic subtexts in contemporary tv.

When Chris arrives at Corleone Junior High, the only kid who will befriend him is the nerd Greg (Vincent Martella, now voicing the Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb).  Soon they become inseparable  -- and exclusive; when one courts another boy, the other seethes with jealousy. They break up, realize how much they care for each other, and reconcile again.

They have a Romeo-and-Juliet moment in “Everybody Hates Greg” (November 24, 2005): Greg’s father forbids him from seeing Chris, and the two go through absurd machinations to be together, behaving according to media conventions for heterosexual participants in a “forbidden romance.”  Finally Greg’s father relents, saying “You’re big buddies, huh?”, apparently recognizing that the emotional importance of their bond transcends that of ordinary “buddies.”

The adult Chris Rock, who narrates each episode, seems somewhat discomfited by the intensity of the pairing.  Some of his asides, such as “Hey, this ain’t Brokeback!” (referring to the gay-themed movie Brokeback Mountain) deny that the pairing is romantic while explicitly linking it with gay romance.

Other asides, such as “How could I have so much drama without a girl?” appear to proclaim that the relationship is invalid because it does not involve girls, but actually indicates that girls are not necessary, that “drama” (emotional turmoil) is equally possible in same-sex relationships. The attention paid to the homoromance, and its thematic association with heterosexual romance, suggests that it is significant, even intentional.

However, it is temporary; after the first season, the two become ordinary best friends, both are wild about girls.

Feb 27, 2023

"The Consultant": Tawdry, Tasteless Homophobia at a Modern Gaming Company

 Amazon Prime has been pushing The Consultant, an adaption of a novel about a consultant who turns out to be the Devil.  I knew that bosses are all evil, but not that evil.... So I watched the first episode.

Scene 1: Six kids from Glendale Middle School are taking a tour of one of those gaming companies where employees sit on stools and play foosball.  Guide Elaine stops to flirt with Craig (Nat Wolff, left), one of the coders,  then gives them the back story: Sang (Brian Yoon, below) coded his first game at age 13, and now has over 100, including all of the super-popular favorites.  He's worth uncountrable billions of dollars.  She ushers them into his office, then stops by to flirt with the coder again.  They discuss how much they hate Sang. 

Suddenly gunshots ring out!  The employees, looking bored, duck under their desks -- this is America, there are .  Guide Elaine and Coder Craig der rush into Sang's office.  One of the kids, Tokyo (Henry Rhoades) shot him!  "I want my Mommy," he says. 

Scene 2
: Late at night, Coder Craig lies awake next to his sleeping girlfriend or wife, horrified by the tragedy.  He tries playing a video game about killing people, but that doesn't help, so he reads a news story about the murder: "The Devil made him do it," then goes for a run. Through Los Angeles at 2:00 am?  Is he crazy?  

Scene 3: He jogs through the deserted streets to the office to get some weed (he keeps marijuana at the office, but not at home?).  It's deserted except for Elaine, who is removing video cameras from the smoke detectors.  She explains that Sang was paranoid, and had them installed everywhere. They discuss the jobs they are going to get, now that Sang's company has closed.

Plot dump: Craig's girlfriend/wife is a fundamentalist, and thinks he should repent of his sins.  He wonders: If the Devil really did make the kid kill the boss, are the company employees evil, too?  Wait -- the Devil would want a good person killed, so his employees would be the good guys, right?  

Elaine shuts him down: millions of people play video games, and don't shoot anyone. There's no evidence that pretend violence causes real-life violence.

They hear a noise, and rush to the foyer: Regus (Christoph Waltz), a white haired man in an overcoat, carrying a briefcase, is just standing there, staring into space like a ghost.  He's here to see Sang.  At 2:00 am?  Then he corrects himself: "Oh, right, he's dead.  He killed those kids, then turned the gun on himself."  

They explain what really happened.  "Oh, right, that was the version I told myself." Creepy, dude. 

Apparently before he died, Sang hired Regus as a consultant "on all matters of business."   He also ordered this beautiful engraved Bible for you.

Unusual trait: Regus can walk ok, but he can't climb stairs.

He barges into Sang's office, shows them his contract, and calls a staff meeting for 9:00 am.  They protest, but the contract checks out.

Scene 4: Coder Craig in bed (muscle shirt), being sniffed by his fundamentalist wife.  She criticizes him for smoking weed. After a kiss, he rushes off to the office to join the grumbling employees.  I guess the kid killing Sang plotline has been dropped. 

Regus starts making crazy CEO demands, like no more working from home.  He sniffs everyone, and forces Iain (Michael Charles Vaccaro), the guy that he thinks smells bad,  to strip and wash right in his office (chest and butt shots).   He knows nothing about video games (except that they brainwash kids into becoming murderers, which Elaine disagrees with).  He is usuing an assumed name: Patoff comes from "Patent office." 

They check the security cam footage of Regus's appointment with Sang. No sound, but after 14 minutes, Sang signs the contract. Then he kneels and gives Regus a blow job.  "Was Sang...." Craig asks, another annoying example of "Don't say 'gay'"   No, he was asexual.  The end.

Beefcake: Naked chubby guy while he's being humiliated.  There's a full-sized, nude, well-hung statue of Sang later on.

Heterosexism: Craig and his fundamentalist wife, but they don't do much.

Gay Characters: Probably not, but gay sex signifies humiliation, degradation, and evil, which, combined with the refusal to use the G-word, becomes was homophobic.  Not to mention "cocksucker."

Violent Video Games Cause Violence:  Disproven over and over. There's no evidence that violent mass media consumption impacts real-life violence.

My Grade: F.

Feb 26, 2023

Head of the Class

Head of the Class (1986-1991) was Welcome Back, Kotter in reverse, about a class of mismatched overachievers, all brilliant, but with different personalities and academic interests.  Their mentor (not really a teacher, since they far surpassed him in knowledge of every subject) was Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman, Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in Cincinnati).

Plots involved anxieties over their Harvard applications, competitions for prestigious awards, and trying to fit in with the cool kids, plus a memorable story arc set in the Soviet Union (the first American tv series ever filmed there).  No gay content, but not a lot of the hetero-horniness otherwise endemic among 1980s tv teens, plus some buddy-bonding, and several of the anti-slackers have moved on to gay-friendly projects.

1. Brian Robbins as Eric Mardian, the Vinnie Barbarino of the group, a surly leather-clad "bad boy" with a puppy-dog smile and an athlete's physique.  Unfortunately, he was also the most aggressively girl-crazy.   Brian has moved into production, and is responsible for some of the best gay-subtext teencoms on Nickelodeon, including Keenan and Kel and Supah Ninjas. 

2. Tony O'Dell as Alan Pinkard, a conservative Republican Michael J. Fox clone.  Not nearly as girl-crazy; most of his episodes focused on being competitive and snobbish, not on liking a girl.  Tony O'Dell had a long list of credits before Head of the Class, including Dynasty and Karate Kid.  Today he is an acting coach, and reputedly gay, thought I don't really see any confirmation on his social media. 
We need another photo of heartthrob Tony O'Dell.  This one emphasizes the tight jeans.

3.  Dan Frischman as Arvid Engen, a stereotypic bespectacled nerd.  He had some "crush on a girl" episodes, but mostly he buddy-bonded with fellow nerd, the portly Davis Blunden (Dan Schneider).  Today he is an actor, writer, and magician.  His first novel, Jackson and Jenks, is about two teenage boys who are best buddies and magicians.  (Dan Schneider, by the way, produces some more of the best gay-subtext teencoms on Nickelodeon, such as Drake and Josh and ICarly).

Whoops, My Dear: The Evolution of a Homophobic Slur

When you research the pop culture of the past, you occasionally come across a mystery.

In an Archie comic book story from the 1960s, Archie has to hold Veronica's purse.  Reggie see him, flashes a limp wrist, and says "Whoops, my dear!"  Obviously he is implying that Archie is gay, but how?

In a comic strip from the 1940s, Mickey Mouse decides to put up flowered wallpaper.  His friend then "accuses" him of being gay by dancing around and saying "Whoops, my dear!"

The homophobic slur appears on The Carol Burnett Show (1970s), in popular novels (1950s), and on the Burns and Allen radio program (1940s).   But what exactly does it mean, and how did it come to mean "I think that you are gay?"

The earliest use I have found is in a 1910 song by Bert F. Grant and Billy J. Morrisey:

Georgie was a dainty youth, well known for miles around.
Up on the street both night and day, he always could be found.
With his natty little cane and flaming crimson tie
When he'd come strolling down the lane, you'd loudly hear him cry, "Whoops, my dear."

He's a turn-of-the-century dandy, his cane and red tie symbolic of gayness, although in this song, he's courting women.

A Dictionary of Criminal Slang  (1913) lists it as a "jovial expression of fairies and theatrical characters"  Fairy, of course, was a derogatory term for a gay man.

An  undated "vintage" birthday card from about the same era has a little girl bouncing around, with the caption reading: "Whoops, my dear. Another year!"  Apparently not a homophobic slur.

In a 1915 story by Elinor Maxwell, we read that Mr. Clarkson Porter is "not much on hair, or a slim waistline, but when it comes to a bank account, whoops, my dear!"

Sounds like a mild expression of surprise.

"What Do We Care for Kaiser Bill", a World War I song (1917):
Now Percy left his home one day to join the flying corps
He said I'll make those horrid boys and girls feel very sore
The first time that they took him up, it made him feel so queer
When in the clouds they looped the loop, he yelled out "Whoops, my dear."

Percy (a gay-coded name of the era) yells out the phrase because he's feeling dizzy.  He's probably been turned gay ("queer").

In the 1920s, tourists to Paris could go to the Petite Chaumiere at 2 Rue Berthe, where the "men dressed as women...cavort around and swish their skirts and sing in falsetto and shout 'Whoops, my dear."

"I Wish't I was in Peoria" (Billy Rose and Mort Dixon, 1925), tells us
They're yelling "Whoops my dear" in Peoria tonight.
They've got a big red-blooded warrior, he wears a red tie in Peoria,
Oh, how I wish't I was in Peoria tonight.

The song is about how the "hick town" of Peoria, Illinois is far more sophisticated than Manhattan.  For instance, they have gay people there.  Red ties still signified gay identity.

In 1932, the Green Street Theater in San Francisco was playing "the continental spicy musical cocktail Whoops, My Dear.", aka Die Guckloch (peephole).  Mild expression of surprise at sexual shenanigans.

In the 1930s, a gay couple named Frankie and Johnny performed at the Ballyhoo Club on North Halsted in Chicago.  Among their numbers was:

Whoops, my dear, even the chief of police is queer.
When the sailors come to town, lots of brown
Holy by Jesus, everybody's got pareses in Fairytown

A mild expression of surprise at the existence of gay people.  I can't even guess what "lots of brown" means, but "pareses" is an inflammation of the brain that occurs in the late stages of syphillis.

In 1946, the Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion by Crosby Gage, a theatrical producer and president of the New York Wine and Food Society, included such drinks as Euthanasia, Whoops My Dear, and Psychopathia Sexualis.

(Shown: Gage Crosby, no relation, a University of Arizona swimmer).

Lucille Ball sang the phrase in "Hey, Look Me Over" in Wildcat (1960), about an attempt to strike oil in Texas (top photo: her costar, Keith Andes):

We're hitting the road
Loud as a Shanta Clare but jittery as hen
The road to glory running a "whoops my dear,"
but here we go again. Yeah!

A "shanta clare" is a chicken.

She seems to mean that the Road to Glory is surprised to find her trying to strike oil again. 

In 1967, a Virginia newspaper was running a column with beauty tips.  The author disapproved of mini skirts unless you wear "mini-type  underpinnings," because otherwise, "Whoops, my dear!  Everything is showing."

 So by the 1960s, you could use the phrase to mean "I am surprised!" and "I think you are gay!"  

Both meaning vanished from popular use during the 1970s, but probably not due to gay activism, since slurs like "fag" and "homosexual" are still going strong. 

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