Mar 11, 2023

The Top 10 Dour Hunks of "The Last of Us"


If you're watching several post-Apocalyptic tv shows at the same time, it becomes difficult to remember which pandemic just killed almost everyone (Station Eleven), which resulted in a world full of plodding, snarling zombies (The Walking Dead), and which resulted in vampire-like beings (The Strain).  Then there's The Last of Us on HBO, where mutated fungus in flour-based products results in near-instantaneous transformation into a creature covered with nauseating bulbous tumors. 

 I'm still watching, but every time a bulbous monster appears, I keep my eyes closed, or scroll through the social media on my cell phone.  As a result, I'm not entirely sure what's going on, so don't yell at me if I get something wrong.  These are just my impressions.  But I did notice some beefcake.

1. Construction worker Joel (Pedro Pascal, top photo) lost his daughter on the first night of the Apocalypse (she is presented as the protagonist, just to mess with viewers' heads). Twenty years later, he is living in Boston, a horrifying dystopia much worse than anything conjured up on The Walking Dead, a police state where they have public executions of anyone who breaks any of the hundreds of repressive laws.  Hardened and dour, he is working as a smuggler along with his non-romantic business partner Tess. 

2. Joel's screw-up younger brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) also survived, but the two are estranged because Tommy went over to the Dark Side or something.

Joel and Tess are hired to deliver sassy 14-year old Ellie to a location I can't remember.  She's special because she's the first person in history to be immune to the fungus, so her blood can be used to make a vaccine.  

On the way out of decrepit, decayed Boston, partner Tess is inundated by disgusting bulbous monsters.  Then it's just the two, trudging through the pristine forests that are just outside the city.  Wait -- outside of Boston there are miles and miles of suburbs.  They stop in various places for supplies and fight the disgusting bulbous monsters.

3. For a reason I'm not clear on, they have to stop by Bill and Frank's -- a gay bear couple (Nick Offerman, left, Murray Bartlett, below) who live in a very nice house with hot water and electricity, pair rabbit stew with Beaujolais, and play Linda Ronstadt songs on the piano. 

4,  In Episode 3, we see their 20 year relationship from beginning to end.  Bill, a survivalist, was hiding in an underground bunker when the military rounded up everyone else in town to kill (to prevent infection?).  He lived alone for several years, until Frank showed up.  He had never been romantic with anyone before, but apparently his only human contact in years sparked some interest.  

I like the scene where they are preparing for sex for the first time: Bill takes his towel off, and Frank's eyes bug out -- apparently the bear is quite well-hung.  I don't like them both being isolated, interacting with no humans other than Joel and Tess, and being dead.

5. Next, in Missouri for some reason, Joel and Ellie encounter dour revolutionary Kathleen and her dour nonromantic partner Perry (Jeffrey Pierce).

6. The revolutionaries want to find and kill hardened bandit Henry (Lamar Johnson) and his deaf, sick, autistic brother Sam (how vulnerable can you get?).  But Joel and Ellie bond with the two.  They fight disgusting bulbous monsters together.  But Sam is bitten!   You know this won't end well.

7.  This doesn't technically count, but in the video game version of The Last of Us, deaf, sick, autistic Sam is a teenager, played by Nadji Jeter.

8. Joel and Ellie finally reunite with Joel's younger brother Tommy (was that the game plan?), who is living in Jackson, Wyoming with his pregnant wife.  But they argue, and the two leave. 

 In Colorado for some reason, Joel is severely injured.  And guess what: in Episode 7, the teenage Ellie is revealed to be a lesbian!  She had a girlfriend back in whatever horrible dystopian place she was living in before Boston, but the girl got monster-ized.

While Joel is fighting his life-threatening injury, Ellie encounters dour cult leader David  (Scott Shepherd) and his nonromantic partner James, who threaten and traumatize her in various ways before she kills them.  

9. I spend most of each episode desperately trying to avoid looking at the disgusting bulbous monsters on the screen, but I got a brief glimpse of Philip Prajoux (right), playing one who infects Joel's nonromantic partner Tess by exuding tentacles into her mouth.

10. Riley Davis (bottom) reputedly plays a "Young Firefly Soldier" (Fireflies are terrorists or freedom fighters, depending on which side you are on), whom Joel provides with drugs in Episode 2.  

I'm including him without a shirtless photo because I spent ten minutes paging through references to a woman named Riley Davis on the old McGyver tv series and looking at the instagrams of 12 people named Riley Davis, all women.  This actor has four citations on the IMDB, but not The Last of Us or Lions in Waiting, which is the source of this photo.

Oh, well.  The last episode of The Last of Us airs on March 12th.

Mar 7, 2023

"Love Addicts": Don't Try to Google This German Sex-Negative TV Series

Love Addict
s, a German tv series on Amazon Prime,  puts Hamburg twenty-something Zoe into a group for Anonymous Love and Sex Addicts, where she meets her three buds: "romance addict Nele, relationship-challenged Ben, and yes-man Dennis."  It's impossible to research online: google "Love Addicts," or even worse, "Love Addicts" and "gay," and a dozen services post advertisements on your social media and subscribe you to daily emails.  .

 But in Episode 7, Ben and Dennis move in together, so presumably they're a gay couple.

Scene 1: Louis (Slavko Popadic, top photo) and Romance Addict Nele hold hands as they enter a coffee shop, happy to be among "normal people" again: no worries about bursting into a circle jerk.  But Nele suddenly sees everyone in the coffee shop naked (all girls except for a fat tattooed guy, who is presented as grotesque).  She calls them all "perverts" and rushes away!

Scene 2
: At the Love Addicts meeting, Nele complains that boyfriend Louis has been ghosting her since the coffee house breakdown.

The problem: ever since she found out that her parents were "swingers" (into hooking up), she sees naked people everywhere.  She even sees the group as naked: 

Relationship Challenged Ben (Dmitri Abold, left), Yes Man Dennis (Anselm Bresgott), and two girls (breasts obscured). The therapist determines that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Rather a sex-negative diagnosis.  If Mom and Dad are both ok with it, why should Nele care?  It doesn't affect her in any way.

On to Relationship Challenged Ben: a "sad clown" because his Mom kicked him out of the house.  After six episodes, shouldn't they have finished the digging into the causes of their disorders?  He's afraid of commitment, so he hooks up and then calls an Uber. 

On to Yes Man Dennis: he's angry with Yvonne, because he can't say "no."  Who's Yvonne?  I thought he was dating Ben.

Back to Nele: the gang decides to find her the "perfect position" by throwing a housewarming party for Ben and Dennis.

Scene 3: The houseewarming party?  Dozens of twentysomethings dancing and carousing, all boy-couples as far as I can tell.  Ben and Dennis stand in the kitchen, hugging and looking horrified.  

Dennis advises Ben to not have sex with Romance Addict Nele, because she'll expect them to spend the rest of their lives together, and be devastated when he calls an Uber.  Wait -- I thought Ben and Dennis were a couple.  Why the heck did they move in together, if they're both straight?

Two guys, Bernd (Bryan Lomuria) and Marco (Nil Neumann), ask where the bathroom is.  Since this show has been entirely heterosexist (and sex-negative) so far, I assume that they want to do drugs, not have sex.  Dennis practices saying "no" by refusing to tell them.

Scene 4:  Ok, I was mistaken: Zoe bursts  into the bathroom to find Bernd and Marco kissing in the bathtub (fully clothed).  They ask her to join in, but she refuses.  So they're bi?  Well, at least same-sex desire exists, sort of.  

Romance Addict Nele enters to pee, and  leaves without her phone.  Boyfriend Louis calls, but Zoe refuses to go fetch Nele for him.

Cut to Zoe and the bi guys sitting in the bathtub so Zoe can diss Louis, Romance Addict Nele's boyfriend: "Super boring. I hate him! "I had a Louis once," Femme Stereotype Bernd swishes: "Small penis, big mouth."  They conclude that Zoe is actually interested in Louis.

Cut to Romance Addict Nele, in a 1960s Carnaby Street outfit, gyrating, drinking, and asking if anyone is into hooking up.  Everyone is.

Back at the bathroom, the bi guys are giving Zoe relationship advice: "Just tell him how you feel.  Or tell Nele.  Or date us." 

Uh-oh, Nele's phone has been on the whole time: Boyfriend Louis heard everything!

Bryan Lomuria has four credits on IMDB, but does not exist on Google.  It keeps wanting me to search for "Lemuria" instead.  Nil Neumann (left) exists only on a German actor website.

Scene 5: Relationship-Challenged Ben and Yes-Man Dennis cuddling on a couch.  They are certainly as physical as a romantic couple.  They watch in horror as Nele leads the group in a strip tease; Ben rushes up to stop her, but she drags him into his room to have sex.

Yvonne, the woman who Dennis was angry with, enters and says hello.  He runs away, but she catches up and drags onto the balcony to have sex.

Louis (Romance Addict Nele's boyfriend, who heard Zoe mention her crush on him) enters.  Zoe runs away and calls the therapist: "Help!  This is all fucked up!"  Why is she so invested in stopping her friends from having sex?    Is Love Addicts like Alcoholics Anonymous, where you're never supposed to drink again?  

Scene 6:  Romance Addict Nele half-naked, gyrating on the bed, while Relationship-Challenged Dennis tries to avoid having sex with her.  He explains that he doesn't want to hurt her by leaving afterwards, but she notes that it's his room.  He still refuses.  They end up cuddling, which Nele discovers is her "favorite position."

Meanwhile, Yes-Man Dennis explains to his girlfriend Yvonne that he doesn't want to have sex with her, for some reason.  The group?

Meanwhile, Zoe is trying to avoid having sex with  Romance Addict Nele's boyfriend Louis, because she doesn't want to hurt her.  She gets out of it by eating peanuts, so she'll have an allergic reaction and have to go to the hospital.  But -- darn it -- Louis is a doctor, so he calls an ambulance and treats her himself.  They kiss, but Zoe feels guilty afterwards: "I always fuck things up!"

Scene 7: She stumbles back into the party, and sits on the couch.  Fast forward through people around her kissing, eating, smoking, and finally leaving, and it's morning. 
Yes-Man Dennis is asleep with his head in Yvonne's crotch (bare back only, no butt).

Ben and Nele are asleep together.

The bi guys, having entered the story only to give advice, are gone.

The feet of the therapist enter, piecing their way through the scattered food, drugs, broken bottles, and passed-out people, to the couch.  Zoe awakens and screams!  All of them have screwed up and had sex or romance! 

Beefcake: Some male nudity, but always presented as something disturbing.

Gay Characters: The bi guys, but Berndt appears in only two episodes, and Marco just in one.

Heterosexism: Everywhere.

Sex: Terrible, especially sex outside a committed relationship.  Hook up, and you will cause endless trauma, either to your partner or to your loved ones.

My Grade: D

Mar 6, 2023

The Top Eight Hunks of "Succession"


Succession on HBO Max, a glamour-glitz-backstabbing soap opera, has received numerous awards and accolades: 48 Primetime Emmy nominations and 13 wins in the first season alone, half a dozen Golden Globes, a British Academy Award.  

But in gay representation it appears to be 20 years behind the times: there is none.  400 characters, all explicitly heterosexual.  An article mentions some homoerotic subtexts, and another discusses how the writers "pushed" for a charater to be gay in the third season, without success. "We can't have gay characters in a tv series on MAX!  All of our viewers are homophobic!" Yet the Emmies keep rolling in. 

I'm going to try to make sense of the convoluted family tree, to see if Succession at least offers some beefcake.

Elderly tycoon Logan Roy has had three wives, all of whom have children, who will squabble over the "succession" of his empire.

From Marriage #1, Connor (Alan Ruck).  No beefcake, unless you go back to 1986 and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

From Marriage #2, Roman (Kieran Culkin).  No beefcake.  Well, I guess you have to count any shirtless scene.

And Kendall (Jeremy Strong).  When you search for beefcake images of Jeremy Strong, Chris Evans as Captain America (top photo) pops up.  Even I know that it's not Jeremy Strong, but I'm including it anyway.  

And Shiv, a girl named after a prison knife.  She's dating Tom (Matthew McFayden). No beefcake. 

From Marriage #3
: Actually his wife's kid from a previous marriage, Amir  (Darius Homayoun). .

His Grand-Nephew: Greg (Nicolas Braun).  He's the one whom the writers tried unsuccesfully to get the ok on a "coming out" story arc.

Kendall's college friend Stewy (Arian Moayed) appears in 22 episodes.  The photo is from a Broadway play, not Succession.

Rob Yang plays rival CEO  Lawrence Yee in 20 episodes.

Wait -- is he in bed with a guy?  According to the Succession fan wiki, he's gay, but only appears with the unnamed boyfriend once.

I guess one in 400 is better than none at all.  Marginally better.

By the way, I went through the entire cast list, and found only two black actors: Attendant (one episode) and Zell Simmons (one episode).  Sounds like the writers need to push for more black representation, too.  

Mar 5, 2023

Golden Cities, Far: The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series

I discovered The Lord of the Rings in junior high, and thought it the best thing ever written. Heroic fantasy!  Elves, dwarfs, and wizards fighting the Dark Lord in an alternate Medieval world!  Infinitely superior to sword and sorcery (about mighty-thewed barbarian heroes in an ancient world), and to those dreary naturalistic novels about high school basketball stars that teachers were always pushing at us.  Even better than science fiction.

During the spring and summer of seventh grade, my friend Darry and I started working on our own alternate Medieval world -- if we couldn't find a "good place" in our world, why not make one of our own?   We developed a gazetteer-full of new countries, wrote historical timelines spanning thousands of years, compiled detailed genealogical charts, and learned to speak a dozen languages of Elves, Dwarves, and Men. We got ideas from fantasy novels, myths, folklore, the histories of obscure countries, and anything else we could get our hands on: we named the country of Runoe after Runde Island in My Village in Norway, and the forest-dwelling Colemonas after Coleman camping equipment. We worked fervently, every day at lunchtime and after school, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, during holidays.

Fantasy worlds must be used as the setting for novels, so by eighth grade we were working on a plot about a Midwestern teenager named Jim swept away through a time-space warp to the world of Toulbium, where he gathered companions to fight the Dark Lord.

Everyone we told about the story screamed “You’re plagiarizing The Lord of the Rings!” But we patiently pointed out that Jim traveled west, not east like Frodo; that he got hiscompanions by accident, not through the Council of Elrond, and that the Dark Lord’s land of Moraine was bounded by dark forests, whereas Sauron’s land of Mordor was bounded by mountains.

Every Saturday we took the bus downtown to Readmore Book World to spend our allowance on heroic fantasy novels.  Between 1969 and 1974, Ballantine published 65, bright, shining paperbacks with evocative titles: The King of Elfland's Daughter, The Broken Sword, The Wood Beyond the World, Beyond the Golden Stair, Golden Cities Far.  

But there was a problem: the cover art often showed naked women.  Beefcake was highly stylized, when you could find it at all (here the Welsh god Manawyddan wades across the English Channel).

And another problem: they were unreadable, with stilted Medieval diction, boring characters, and clich├ęd plots.

The biggest problem: the male heroes were entirely obsessed with goddesses, fairy queens, and damsels in distress. With the exception of Tolkien and maybe C.S. Lewis, heroic fantasy was nauseatingly heterosexist.  The Well of the World's Desiring, the Goal of the Quest, the Reason for Living is a man falling into a woman's arms.  No bonding, no gay subtexts, no gay symbolism, no nothing.

Even the cover of Imaginary Worlds, a survey of the fantasy genre, morphs into a woman's face

It's no better today.   No matter if it is print fiction, a movie, or tv (as in Legend of the Seeker, top photo).  There may be a few battle maidens and Amazons who fight side by side, but men are always questing after women.

Even in naturalistic literature, as I discovered in my college class in Fiction Writing.

"The White Lotus": A Shockingly Homophobic Portrayal of a Gay Man, Created, Written, and Directed by the Devil


I lived in Florida for four years, and never went near the beach.  You'll never get me on a boat.  Even going over a bridge pushes up my anxiety level.  So I wasn't sure about the HBO Max series White Lotus, set in a beach resort in Italy.  But someone told me that there were gay characters in Season 2, so here goes....

Scene 1: A beach resort featuring bikini models sitting under umbrellas.  A woman with her breasts hanging out of her swimsuit starts a conversation with two women who just arrived from America.  She's leaving in a few hours, but she praises the hotel, the staff, the food, and the wine.  So she spent her entire trip on a beach that looks like every beach everywhere?  Why not try to actually see the country?  Her semi-bare butt goes into the water for one last swim -- and she bumps into a dead body!

Cut to hotel staff Rocco and Valencia watching body bags being hauled away.  Several bodies of guests have turned up!

Scene 2: 
 A week earlier.  Two heterosexual couples on a boat, one distant and arguing, the other snuggling, kissing, and nose-rubbing.  Then a depressed woman, Allora, walking through town.  Her friend Mia asks what's wrong: "Massimo has a new girlfriend, and I'm jealous."  Mia drags her away: it's almost time for the boat to arrive.  So is this a flashback in a flashback, before the girls get on the boat with the heterosexual couples?

A boat arriving while the staff waves.  "Smiles, everyone, smiles!'   Allora and Mia look on from afar, wondering whic one "he" is.  He who?  A new boyfriend met on Tinder?

Down on the dock, Employee Valencia tells the Old Guy: "I'm surprised you are here.  It's a long way from L.A., and you are quite old."  Way to insult your guests!  Next an unidentified older-younger same-sex couple; Cameron (Theo James, above) and wife, the kissing, nose-rubbing couple); Ethan (Will Sharpe, left) and wife, the distant, arguing couple (he forces her to drink wine); and a flowsy rich lady with a hundred suitcases, Ms. McQuaid. "I am your host, Mr. Roarke.  Welcome to Fantasy Island." 

Scene 3:  The White Lotus resort is in an  old hilltop convent, nowhere near the beach -- but with a view of Mount Etna. What kind of beachside resort is this, where you have to take a bus to get to the beach?

  Employee Rocco tells the two couples, who are apparently all friends, the story of the testi morti: a Moor came to Sicily and seduced a local woman.  When she discovered that he had a wife and kids back home, she cut off his head. It's a warning for husbands not to cheat. 

Then he shows  them that the two rooms connect through a secret doorway.  Ethan is up for wife-swapping, but his wife disapproves: "We won't be using that."   When the kissing, nose-rubbing couple leave, Ethan starts yelling at her.  Jerk! Not into it means not into it.

Meanwhile, the older-younger same-sex couple turn out to be father Dominic and young adult son Albie (Adam DiMarco), traveling with Grandpa Bert, who flirts with a female employee until the others reigns them in.  They're here to visit their ancestral town. 

So far the only potentially gay guest is Albie, so I'll fast-forward to his story.

Minute 24: Albie gets out of the pool (nice chest shot, but every other guy in the vicinity is fully clothed0.  He sits down next to Portia, a teenage girl who just got off the phone with a friend telling her to "get some dicks" while on vacation.  SHe starts crying because "they" have half a billion dollars but won't let her have any fun.  Albie consoles her.

Minute 46:
They kiss.  Ok, so Albie is straight.  All of the other guests are married, hetero-horny, or both.  Who is the gay one?

Research reveals that he is Quentin, one of those aristocratic, decadent, fey Quentin Crisp types (parents don't know that their kid is gay when he is born, so why do gay guys on tv always have tired stereotype names, like Quentin and Blaine?).  This closeted jerk pays a group of straight men to have sex with him and introduces them as "my nephew and his friends."   He's also a drug addict and a murderer.  Pure homophobic sleaze.  

Wait -- I didn't notice before, but this series is created by, written by, and directed by MIKE WHITE, aka The Devil,  the most disgusting homophobe in Hollywood.  This is the jerk who wrote and starred in Chuck and Buck, about gay relationships being only for adolescents experimenting on their way to a "normal" heterosexual adulthood -- then had the monumental gall to advertise it in gay magazines!  Apparently those poor souls who get stuck in their adolescent "gay phase" turn into decadent, fey drug addicted murderers.

Run away. Run away fast.  

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