Apr 29, 2023

Netflix wants you to think that "AKA" is a queer romance


Aka (or AKA, "also known as?), a 2023 action-adventure movie, has an  icon on Netflix that looks like two guys about to kiss and a potentially gay blurb: "A steely special ops agent (Alban Lenoir) finds his morality put to the test when he infiltrates a crime syndicate and unexpectedly bonds with the boss's young son."  

How young?  Early 20s?  A queer mafia romance?

The Netflix trailer begins with Aka (actually named Adam) shoving his hand down his pants, an action guaranteed to draw the interest of gay men.

Then he interacts multiple times with a blond young man in a baseball cap: they hack into a computer, and then drive off in a car together.  The boss's young son?  

No women are shown in the trailer.  It's all about Aka/Adam and the blond guy.

But the trailer on IMDB shows a lot of fighting and explosions, the standard scene in a naked-lady club, Adam cuddling with, comforting, and preparing to kiss a red-haired lady, and Adam bonding with a little boy.  The blond guy is absent.  It looks like a completely different movie.

IMDB doesn't have photos of most of the cast, so I googled images of everyone, looking for the blond guy in the baseball cap. The male cast members are mostly black; not a blond among them.  But 4th billed Natalya (Sveva Alvit)  has blond or red hair.


A blow-up of the Netflix trailer reveals that the blond person might be a woman dressed as a man.   So the Netflix trailer drew the shot of Adam shoving his hand down his pants, to imply that there are penises.  Then it drew two scenes where Natalya is disguised as a man and omitted redhead-lady scenes, to imply that Adam is involved in a gay romance. Why?  Surely not to entice gay men and fangirls to press "play."

Or maybe that's exactly what Netflix has in mind.  Look how they advertise Boss Baby.

Apr 28, 2023

Robert Rodan and the Gay Casting Couch of "Dark Shadows"

One day in May 1968, when I was second grade in Racine, Wisconsin, my friend Doug invited me home after school.  We came into the living room to find his older sister watching tv.   Outraged over her co-opting Garfield Goose, we demanded that she change the channel, but she said "Cool it, gremlins!  This is good."

I looked at the screen.

A naked man on an operating table.

Seeing shirtless guys on tv was almost unheard of, and here was a guy almost totally naked. Chest, shoulders,arms, belly, legs....penis....

I had heard of the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows -- the older kids all grooved on tortured vampire Barnabas Collins.  But I didn't watch, so I didn't know that Barnabas was trying to cure his vampirism by by transferring his life force into a young hunk, a man built out of the spare parts of bodybuilders.  I don't think I had even heard of Frankenstein.

But there was a naked man on the operating table!

In the actual episode, he's covered up except for his head and shoulders, but in my memory you get an eyeful.

It was a busy summer, with Vacation Bible School and then three weeks at Aunt Nora's house while Mom and Dad negotiated the move from racine to Rock Island, so I only caught an occasional half-episode of Dark Shadows. 

After a few weeks of Frankenstein-style grunts, the man, dubbed Adam (Robert Rodan), becomes eloquent, super-strong, and vicious.   An altogether formidable foe, but all he really wants is a date.  First he tries for Caroline, the teenage daughter of the super-wealthy Collins family.  Then he forces reformed vampire Barnabas and his doctor-sidekick Julia to build him a mate, Eve.  His storyline ends in December 1968, when he goes off to a clinic to have his scars removed and fade into obscurity.

He never got naked on screen, but he did in my memories.  

Robert Rodan, 30 years old at the time, was born Robert Trimas (he chose his last name after his favorite sculptor).  An art major at the University of Miami, he graduated in 1960, spent five months in the army reserve, and then moved to Los Angeles to seek a job in advertising art.  But he was so goodlooking that people kept mistaking him for a movie star and asking for his autograph, so he figured, why not?

In the mid-1960s, he landed only a few minor roles:  an episode of A Day in Court (1963), a musical called Looking for Love (1964), and the comedy Goodbye, Charlie (1964).  Then he moved to New York and began modeling for magazines and auditioning for the theater.

A soap opera gig sounded like a good steady paycheck.

When he went to the Adam audition wearing regular clothes, Robert was intimidated: the other actors came in full Frankenstein makeup.  Still, he was tall, dark-haired, and blue-eyed, characteristics that, according to Robert himself, producer Dan Curtis found especially sexy.

Wait -- is he implying that there was a gay casting couch going on?

And that Dan Curtis was a member of the fraternity?

That explains why half of the male cast members were gay.

After doing Adam, Robert returned to L.A. and started auditioning for movies.  But he was typecast as a monster. 

He acted in a few commercials and the softcore porn thriller The Minx (1969), which a Swedish producer bought and turned into an X-rated movie.  Then he  hung up his headshots, turned back into Robert Trimas, and went into real estate.

Later in life, Robert returned to acting, voicing some of the Dark Shadows audio dramas.  He died in 2021, at the age of 83, divorced, with children and grandchildren.  No gay rumors.

But, half a century ago, he gave a 7-year old Wisconsin boy one of the iconic moments of his life by lying naked on an operating table. 

Apr 27, 2023

Spring 1977: On the Brink of Busting Loose

In the spring of my junior year in high school, when I was starting to accumulate college catalogs from all over the country -- indeed, all over the world -- and hoping to get away from the oppressive influence of parents, church, and heterosexism -- a new sitcom appeared on Wednesday nights after Good Times called Busting Loose. 

It starred the 20-year old Adam Arkin as Lenny Markowitz, a cute Jewish boy -- just as I was reading My Name is Asher Lev, and watching Lanigan's Rabbi, with their homoerotic Jewish subtexts.  And meeting Aaron, my first Jewish friend, who was gay but didn't know it yet.

Lenny tries to distance himself from his parents by getting his own apartment -- a terrible one.  The wallpaper has ducks on it.

He has a crush on his next door neighbor, Melodee (Barbara Rhoades), who dates for a living -- "I'm a great date!" she explains. But she's actually a paid escort, not a... you know.

  She's always saying things that sound like sex but really aren't: "Can I borrow some ice?  My date threw his back out."

But I was more interested in Lenny's close knit group of childhood buddies (plus a coworker), various personalities and levels of hotness: the nerd Lester (Danny Goldman), the bad boy Vinnie (Greg Antonacci), the hunk Woody (Paul Sylvan), and Allan (Stephen Nations), whom I don't rememer.

There were only 21 episodes, in the spring and fall of 1977.   No gay characters, no nudity.  You had to be there, just at the brink of "busting loose."

Paul Sylvan also embarked on a musical career, and posed naked and steamy for the cover of this album.

Stephen Nathan was in The First Nudie Musical (1978).

And Adam Arkin has had a long career, with many gay-positive projects, such as East of A (2000) and Kids in America (2005).

Apr 26, 2023

Jonathan (Sigh) Whitesell: Gay, Straight, Canadian?

On tv, transgender transitions always change your  sexual orientation.  Women when you had male physiology, and now that you have female physiology, men.  As is having a penis automatically makes you intererested in women, and a vagina makes you interested in men.  As if gay people do not exist.

I was gratified to find that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina got it right.  Theo is a transman, but likes men.

And the man he likes: green-haired prankster with a hidden agenda Robin Goodfellow (aka Puck), played by Jonathan Whitesell (sigh).

Where have those abs been all my life?

Biographical details are sparce:  About an hour of internet research revealed only that Jonathan (sigh) grew up in Vancouver, graduated from Capilano University in 2015, and immediately got a manager and hit Hollywood.  The link to his personal website is broken, and his instagram and twitter feeds contain mostly ads for his performances.

An article on LiveRamp assures us that he is "of the straight orientation and has never mingled with men."  It goes on to gush about his girlfriend: "With a beautiful girl on his side, we can surely say that Jonathan is the luckiest man as he has a caring and supportive girl who has forever remained on his side"

Somebody needs an editor.

So there's nothing to do but go through his list of credits on IMDB to see if there's anything of interest.

The Kill Teams (2019); a young soldier in Afghanistan faces a moral quandary over his commanding officer's command to murder civilians.  What quandary?  That's an obvious war crime.Jonathan (sigh) is third billed.

Five 2019 episodes of Sabrina's sister show Riverdale, as the unhinged Kurtz, who really believes that the mythical Gargoyle Lord is about to ascend.  Oh, and he's also a drug dealer.

Bad Times at the El Royale Hotel (2018): Five people who are not what they seem show up at a seedy desert hotel.  There are deals, betrayals, machinations, and shoot-outs. Jonathan  (sigh) is not among the five; his character is killed by the hotel manager.  Heterosexist ending: A man and a woman survive to walk into the sunset together.

Hold the Dark (2018): When a six-year old boy is carried off by wolves, his mother hires a retired naturalist to help track him down in the Alaska wilderness.  And the two fall in love, of course. Jonathan (sigh) has a minor role.

Beyond (2016-2018):  Holden Matthews (The Beaver's son, I assume) wakes up from a 12-year coma a young adult with special powers and somebody trying to kill him.  Sounds entirely derivative, and it got horrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jonathan (sigh) is third billed as Luke, the boy's brother, a student at Central Kansas University (can you imagine anyplace more "Middle America"?). He has a girlfriend.

Not Falling Together (2017).  A male-female couple faces the Apocalypse.  Jonathan's character is named XY.  XY Chromosome, Male, biological imperative toward heterosexual coupling, I get it.

Never Steady, Never Still (2017): Mom with Parkinson's Disease, son with a "sexual awakening."  It took about twelve reviews to find out what that meant: the boy "questions his sexuality" and canoodles with men, but his queerness is cured through sex with a woman.  Ugh.  Jonathan (sigh) plays a minor character.

The 100 (2016-2017), a tv series about 100 teenagers sent down to an Apocalypse-raged earth from their space-station home to..um...get into arguments.  Jonathan (sigh) plays Bryan in a 10-episode story arc.  He has a romantic relationship with Bryan, and then the show Buries its Gays.

A.R.C.H.I.E. (2016).  Cool title for someone about to be immersed into the Archie universe. It's about a robot dog who bonds with a sad girl.  Jonathan (sigh) plays her crush.

Guest spots:
Hercules in a 2016 episode of Once Upon a Time.

A mutant in a 2016 episode of The X-Files.

A fratboy turned zombie in a 2015 episode of IZombie.

And his movie premiere: The Unspoken (2015).  The close-knit Anderson family vanishes.  17 years later, a single mother moves in to their haunted house. Spoiler alert: the Andersons aren't really gone.  I can't find a plot synopsis, but the reviews are horrible.  Jonathan plays the teenage son.

Two gay characters amid a lot of heterosexist and even homophobic venues.  Not a great record, but Jonathan (sigh) has only been working for five years.  Give him time.

Apr 23, 2023

Keefe's Date with Joe Jonas: A Kelvin/Keefe Fan Fiction, Illustrated

This story takes place shortly after the resort opening scene in Season 2, Episode 9.  It is not the same universe as the "Christmas in South Carolina" story.

All characters are the property of HBO, transformed under the Fair Use clause

Keefe checked his shirt in the mirror.  Did it emphasize his pecs, but not so much that Ricky would think he was showing off?  Red tie or brown tie?  Earring or no?  He kicked himself for being so nervous, but he hadn't been on a real date for two years, not since he left the sex-and-drug haze of the Satanist Club behind and dedicated his life to the Lord.  

Suddenly Kelvin appeared at his dressing room door, carrying a cell phone.  The youngest son of famous televangelist Eli Gemstone, Kelvin was his housemate, best friend, brother, and something more that neither of them ever talked about.  "What are you hiding in here for?"

"How is your brother in law doing?" Keefe asked.

"BJ is recuperating nicely.  He'll be moving into a room on the estate tomorrow.  There was some nerve damage, so he'll be needing physical therapy.  I told Judy that we would handle it."

"Sure, anything for family."

"Whoa, you look nice, except your tie is a little crooked.  Let me fix it for you."  He came forward and started fumbling with the tie.  Keefe felt the familiar warmth from his body, the nearly-unbearable ache of desire.  Their faces were inches apart...but those inches might as well be a thousand miles. 

 The tie straightened, Kelvin quickly stepped away.  "Sorry, did I forget about our plans tonight?"

Keefe grinned into the mirror. "Remember when we met Mr. Joe Jonas, the Disney boy band star and famous Christian, at the resort opening?  Well, we exchanged numbers, and..."

The full story is on Righteous Gemstones Beefcake and Boyfriends

"Move to Heaven" Tackles a Gay Couple


Move to Heaven is a Korean drama about three "trauma cleaners" who clean the houses, apartments, or rooms of the deceased, and deliver a box of mementos to the surviving loved ones: Geun-ru, who is autistic; his MMA fighter/ex con guardian Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon, left); and best friend Na-mu.  (See my review of the first episode here)

In Episode 5, they are assigned to clean the room of Joon Soo-hyun (Kwon Soo-hyun), a young doctor killed in a hostage incident.  His parents want everything taken away, no mementos of any sort. Geun-ru finds a letter that the doctor planned to send to a loved one, and has to deliver it; but when he asks the parents who it was written to, Dad throws it onto the fire.

Mom: He was our son.  We should have allowed it.

Dad: I would never allow such a thing in our family!

Aha, a mystery to solve!  The autistic Geun-ru becomes fixated on finding "the person he was in love with" to deliver the mementos to.  Sang-gu and Na-mu immediately say "yes, we must find this woman.  Who is she?"

Soo-hyun had tickets to a string quartet concert tomorrow night -- three women and a man.  Plus he put the letter in a gift box.  No doubt he was planning to deliver it at the concert.  The trauma cleaners deduce that the doctor was in love with one of the performers.  So they go to the concert hall, and while Geun-ru is in the bathroom, Sang-gu and Na-mu interrogate each of the three women.  Nope, none of them even knew Soo-hyung.

Geun-ru returns, and looks at a poster advertising the concert: "I know who the lover is."

Sang-gu: "Dude, it's a dead end.  We asked all three of the members of the quartet."

Geun-ru points.

Sang-gu: "Dude, you're pointing at a guy, Ian Park (Kim Doh-yon). We're looking for Soo-hyung's lover, remember?"

Na-mu: "You don't mean...no!  That's impossible!  This is Korea!"

Sang-gu: "Well....I've heard of them.  But Soo-hyung was a doctor!  He couldn't be..."

After their initial shock and disbelief, the trauma cleaners are perfectly nonchalant about gay people.  Even Sang-gu, the macho ex-con MMA fighter.  They approach Ian to give him the mementos, but he denies knowing Soo-hyung.  Then he says "I knew him once, but he's a stranger to me now."

 The others say "Well, that's another dead end," but Geun-ru insists that Soo-hyung wanted Ian to have the mementos. They decide to try again, but Ian has gone missing, right before the concert!

After all the "no, this can't happen in Korea!" build-up, I expected Ian to be a villain, involved in a sinister plot of some sort.  But no: there are flashbacks of the two meeting, going out on dates, cuddling in bed, falling in love, and planning to go to San Francisco together.  Then they broke up when Soo-yun decided to obey his parents and marry a woman; that's why "he's a stranger to me."

Why San Francisco?  Because it is a cliched gay mecca?  And why does Ian have a Western name?  Is gayness a Western phenomenon?

The Trauma Cleaners track down Ian and tell him about the letter.  It was burned, but fortunately Geun-ru has an eidetic memory, and can quote it.   Soo-hyun wanted to get back together and go to San Francisco after all.  

At the concert, Ian tells about losing "someone who was everything to me, someone who I will love forever."  He drops pronouns, but the ghost of Soo-hyun, sitting in the audience, hears him.  

Postscript: Geun-ru still doesn't understand. Why were the parents against Soo-hyun dating Ian?  He was nice.  Sang-gu: "Parents always worry when their kids are different, like your father worried about you."

By the way, there's a second postscript with Sang-gu feeling guilty because he put his opponent into a coma during a fight.  Some shirtless MMA shots.

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