May 12, 2023

"Mulligan": A bro-dude leads the survivors of an Insectoid Apocalypse. Guess how many gay characters there are.


Mulligan is an animated comedy on Netflix, featuring a bro-dude who becomes president of the post-Apocalyptic U.S. The trailer shows a lot of jiggly ladies, but I'm going to try it out anyway, because...well, I'm paying for the Netflix subscription, so I might as well use it.

Scene 1:  Chittering insectoid aliens led by a caped Dark Lord attack the Earth, wiping out the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House, Hollywood, Nebraska, and a French hipster ("Oh, I've wasted my life," he says, like Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons).  They zero in on the White House.

 Matty the Bro-Dude  (Nat Faxon) and his girlfriend Miss America, still wearing her sash, hang- glide onto the alien ship and kiss.  Then Matty proceeds with his sabotage plan.  Wait -- they're not working together?  She's just there to gaze at him and imagine the wild sex they're going to have when the crisis is over?  

He lobs a hand grenade  into a shaft that leads directly to the bridge and blows up the ship, a parody of the ventilation-shaft design flaw in the Star Wars Death Star.  All of the other ships fall to the ground, too, since the Darth Vader was the leader of the hive mind.  Matty and Miss America kiss again.  

But Washington, and the rest of the world, is in ruins.  Someone has to lead the disparate band of survivors as they rebuid. Senator LaMarr, the only surviving politician, appoints Matty President (and makes himself second in command, with his own nefarious goal).  Matty and Miss America kiss again.

Scene 2:  Matty sits in the ruins of the Oval Office.  He has just realized that he's really stupid, and has never had a real job, so he might be in over his head.  The First Lady is equally stupid.  The world is doomed.

Scene 3:   Matty and the First Lady inspect the flaming ruins of DC.  They make a list of what they need: cell phones, the internet, electricity, food, Dunkin Donuts, drinking water, a water park, the Fast and the Furious franchise.  Meanwhile, the Senator has fun passing bills in the ruined Capitol: "Money is now legally a person."

Scene 4: They recruit a Cabinet to take care of the "food and water and stuff:.  I don't know who will become a main character, so I'll list them all:

1. A "female scientist"  (Tina Fey) whose two preteen sons are trying to get video games to work.

2. A Prince (Daniel Radcliffe) who was hiding out at the British Embassy: "are we to take Molly and listen to the silence?  Radcliffe gets top billing on IMDB.

3. A "Georgetown postdoc iwth a focus on 19th century fonts" (Sam Richardson)

4. General Scarpaccio, actually a little boy wearing the General's uniform: "As an important army man, do I get to shoot guns and stuff?"  

Plus a singer, a carpenter, and a guy whose shoe store didn't get blown up. 

Scene 5: Their first concern: A victory parade. A captured Insectoid (Phil LaMarr) is forced to pull the car that Matty and the First Lady are riding in, but he admits "I actually like this.  It was an honor on my planet."  Wait -- why don't cars work?  On the Walking Dead, they're still driving cars around 10 years after the Apocalypse.  

Matty stole the generator at the National Zoo to keep his beer cold, so the zookeeper ws forced to free all of the animals.  They run rampant throught the parade.  

Scene 6:
  The zoo animal scandal is all over the media (a news-crier on a bicycle).  The survivors are incensed by Matty's lack of concern, and picket the White House.  The Cabinet discusses damage control: how about a distraction, like a celebrity wedding?  

Problem: The First Lady is also upset about the zoo animal scandal, and refuses to marry Matty.  

Scene 7: The Female Scientist is in her lab, working on a water purification system, when the History Professor drops in.  The museums are still on fire, and priceless artifacts are being lost.  Can she put out the fires with science?  She's overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the smartest person alive, and suggests that they get drunk instead.

Scene 8: Matty at the Insectoid's cage.  He complains hat everything is going wrong: the people hate him, and the First Lady won't marry him.  The Insectoid can relate: his plan to conquer the Earth went wrong, too.  "How can I be a hero again?" Matty wonders, looking at the Insectoid....uh-oh.

Scene 9:  Matty chasing the Insectoid with a hatchet, yelling "He escaped!" "I did not escape!" The Insectoid protests.  "He let me out!", as Matty punches and kicks him and cuts off one of his limbs.

The survivors are angry.  "This is pathetic!" The First Lady yells.  "You're terrible at president-ing.  And by the way, I was piloting that hang glider!"  She throws his ring at him and stomps off.

Scene 10: The wedding, in the ruins of the National Cathedral.  The Senator, Matty and a surviving priest wait at the altar for the First Lady.  It's obvious that she won't show up, so the Senator has helpfully provided a back-up bride. 

Meanwhile, the Female Scientist and the Historian, who is black, complain that there's only like 40 people left in the world, but white men are still in charge.  

Scene 11: Matty has a heart-to-heart with the Insectoid: "I couldn't go through with the wedding.  I love the First Lady."  More about how he's been a screw-up his whole life; he needs a chance to start over. Um...the Apocalypse?

Meanwhile, at the ruins of the Capitol, the Senator has passed a bill allowing for gun ownership beginning at conception.  

Scene 12: Matty tracks down the First Lady at the National Zoo, and convinces her to accompany him to the National Mall.  He has organized a water brigade to put out the museum fires and rescue the artifacts.  Realizing that he can be a good leader when he wants to be, the First Lady accepts a date with him ("anywhere but Olive Garden").  The end.

Beefcake: None.

Gay Characters: None

Gay References: None

Heterosexism: Yes

My Grade: This is standard Adult Swim stuff, making fun of a bro-dude for an intended audience of bro-dudes, a standard snake-oil politician,  some obvious digs at institutional racism and sexism, and absolutely no conception that LGBT people exist.  At least it's not homophobic. D

May 10, 2023

"A Million Little Things": A Million Little Tearjerkers, One Gay Kid


A Million Little Things appeared on my Hulu recommendations, so I started researching, and discovered that I reviewed it two years ago:

"They say that friendship isn't a big thing -- it's a million little things."  I never heard that saying until it was used as the title of a tv series on Hulu about a group of elite, entitled, self-absorbed young adults "dealing with life's curveballs."  

So, is A Million Little Things a Friends clone?  Remember: Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's DOA.   

Nope. The episode synopses reveal angst, pain, and trauma ad nauseam.  This is a major tearjerker!

Let's see how many terrible things happen to the friends.

1. Jon (Ron Livingston)
 starts the chain of angst by killing himself in the first scene.  Trying to determine his motive fuels some of the plot. Well, there's some shady business deals, and a woman he had an affair with, who shows up with a teenage son in tow.

And his daughter, Sophie, is sexually abused by her music teacher.

 His widow, #2. Delilah, was having an affair, and got pregnant by: 

3. Eddie (David Giutoni, top), an aspiring musician and recovering alcoholic, is cheating on #4: his wife Katherine, a lawyer.

Jon and Delilah's son Danny (Chance Hurstfield) is gay, and a drama club kid (of course).  For a change of pace, his biggest angst is worrying that his first kiss will be with a girl on stage (he's been cast as Danny in Grease) instead of with a boy.

#5. Rome
(Romany Malco, left), an aspiring filmmaker, is suffering from drug addiction.  He is dating Gina, who is suffering from financial woes. 

Rome's wife, #6 Regina, is traumatized by being sexually assaulted by her uncle Neill at age 12, so she tracks him down, but he dies before she can confront him. Her mother is also a victim.  

#7 Gary
(James Roday Rodriguez), a breast cancer survivor, is dating fellow cancer survivor #8 Maggie, whose cancer returns and gives her six months to live.  She dumps him because she doesn't want a boyfriend at her deathbed

Later, Gary starts dating Floriana, a soldier suffering from PTSD.

Maggie, by the way, has brother, Chad, who died in a car crash due to DUI.  Eric (Jason Ritter) shows up, claiming to have Chad's transplanted heart, but he actually has his sister's.  She died in the car crash, too.

Keeping track?  I counted 18 tearjerkers.  And I skipped over some of the boring "stalled music career" and "can't get a bank loan to open my ritzy restaurant" woes

"Cannon Busters": Three Guys on a Wild West Planet, and Six Pack Abs. What Could Go Wrong?


This icon obviously drew my attention to the Netflix anime Cannon Busters, but when I clicked on "more information," it appeared to be another show called Unfettered, with Philly and their droids going to settle a tab in Madura City.  But the first episode description has other people, Sam and Casey, going to Balloon City. Well, which is it? (no, they're not the same city: madura means "ripe" in Spanish).  

 I've never been so confused before watching an episode, but at least with three guys listed, there's bound to be some gay subtexts.  And muscle men. What could go wrong?

Scene 1: A weird desert world, or moon.  A very ugly but muscular guy falls out of a spaceship, then gets squished by a giant horned robot, who wants to know the way to the nearest city.  It's Balloon Town, 3 km west.  

Later, I assume, a tousel-haired guy in a suit scavages the weapons from the dying ugly guy, who warns him that "Philly the Kid is heading your way."  

Intro: Standard five-minute long, with numerous characters flashing across the screen.  No beefcake, but thankfully no bosoms, either.

Scene 2: Balloon Town has no balloons; it's a generic Wild West town, with human and anthropomorphic animal inhabitants, a brothel, a gambling saloon, a fruit stand.  Sam, a white-haired woman, and her R2D2-like robot Casey enter to "look for him" (a wanted poster revealss who: Philly the Kid) Uh-oh, that reduces the boy count to one.

Casey gushes over a "modified 1950 Mospeada" car, pinik, with horns.  

They pause before a gunfight at the Hangman's Bar so Sam can ask one of the casualties about Philly the Kid.  She's surprised that he can't answer, and concludes that he's "fatigued."  

Next she goes into the bar, pieces her way around the dead bodies (so many people sleeping in the middle of the day?), and approaches four huge, muscular thugs who are accosting a skinny guy, mistakenly believing that he is Philly the Kid.

Sam notes that she wants him, too, but the thugs can have him after she gets his help on something.  She turns out to be a robot, too, a Special Associate Model from the Kingdom of Benicia, which is why she doesn't understand things like death.  I can understand the heterosexist urge to destroy gay subtext potential by making SAM a girl, but why rub it in by giving her a boy's name?  

Scene 3: The real Philly the Kid, a muscular young man with very bushy hair,  leaves the restroom, happy to have relieved himself.  The thugs blast him, but he comes back to life, the gaping hole in his chest healed instantly. (This is the Netflix icon; nice physique, with various glowing numbers).  He's angry because they blasted a hole in his last clean shirt, and this is his 22nd death: "No more discount curry for me!"

Sam introduces herself.  The thugs start blasting again, so Philly takes her by the hand and rushes to escape.  Heteronormative, but at least he won't be falling in love with a robot.  

In the midst of the blaster-fire, she reveals that she wants Philly to take her to Gara's Keep, so she can reunite with Prince Kelby.  He keeps holding her hand during the entire exchange, except when they fall into each other's arms.  I stand corrected.  Next!

May 9, 2023

The Land of Ziggy Zaggy


When I was in kindergarten, first, and second grade, we lived in Racine, Wisconsin, 70 miles north of Chicago.   I have only a few memories from that period: going to the beach a few blocks from our house, going to the zoo, marrying the boy next door, my second grade teacher making me stand in the corner for refusing to square dance (she wouldn't believe that it was forbidden for Nazarenes, and at the age of 7 I was in no position to ask the preacher to telephone her).

And a very weird memory of my Dad being proud of me for watching a children's tv program.

Dad was in his late 20s, just out of the Navy, rather athletic, a stalwart Democrat and an avid Nazarene.  He worked on the assembly line at the J. I. Case Company, a job he would keep for the next 30 years.

The memory is vague:  Dad is sitting on the couch, half reading the newspaper, half snoozing, so he must have just gotten home from work, around 4:00 pm.  My brother and I are watching tv.  

Mom comes in from the kitchen and asks "What do you want to watch now?  Romper Room?"

"No," I say.  "The Land of Ziggy Zaggy."

Dad looks up.  "Ziggy Zaggy?  What kind of kookie show is that?"

Mom changes the channel, and we see a woman walking onto the stage, singing about the mystical land.

Dad laughs.  "Ok, I get it now!  You're starting early, just like your old dad!  A chip off the old block!  Come up here and sit by me."

I sit on the couch, and he puts his arm around me.  I'm thrilled.  Dad is usually kind of critical,but today I'm a chip off the old block!  I did something right, something that made him proud of me. But what?

50 years later, I don't remember anything about the show except for a woman singing an invitation to visit "The land of Ziggy Zaggy."  That title doesn't exist, but after a few searches on alternates (zaggo, zongi, zuggi), I found it:

It was a local Chicago children's program, The Land of Ziggy Zoggo. Also called The Nancy Berg Show, after the host.  Short lived, 1963-65.  We only moved to Racine in the summer of 1965, so I must have watched at the end of the run, just before I started kindergarten.

There's a full episode on youtube.  Very amateurish, painted backdrop for a set, only one performer.  Three sketches, about 5 minutes each.

1. Miss Nancy visits a Middle Eastern country, where she meets a Go-Go Genie (herself) selling magic carpets in a parody of talky used-car salespeople.  She buys the carpet, but it doesn't fly!  She criticizes herself for being conned, then kicks the carpet.  Now it works!  She then flies through the clouds while singing. 

2. The kimono-clad Miss Sukayaki (Nancy again), with a stereotyped "Ah so" accent, goofs on the  "ancient Japanese custom of flower arrangement." 

3. Miss Nancy flies a balloon to the African jungle to show film footage of various animals: a rhinocerous, a lion, a leopard.

No beefcake, no buddy-bonding, actually no male characters, but the exotic locations must have been appealing to me as a kindergartener.  And maybe the hint of social satire: you may get conned by a fast-talking salesperson.

But why was Dad so pleased?  Why was I "starting early" and a "chip off the block" for wanting to watch The Land of Ziggy Zoggo?

After watching the episode, I conclude that he was pushing heteronormativity at  me.  He assumed that, at the age of  4 1/2, I was crushing on Miss Nancy.  

May 8, 2023

Looking for Queer Potential on Netflix: Homophobic Comedy, Tragic Events, Worlds Turned Upside Down, and Queerbaiting


Netflix is increasingly irrelevant, with its glory days of constant representation falling farther and farther into the past.  Having not found anything with overt gay potential for several weeks, I researched everything in its "recently added" list, except for reality and interview shows, in case I had overlooked some glimmer of gay representation:

Dilemma: Starring Kevin James andVince Vaughn (left), so not much hope.  In the icon, they're bookended by women, and the blub says something about a guy cheating on his wife, so I rephrase that into a Next!

Doctor Cha:A Korean drama featuring a woman who gave up her medical career to be a housewife, and returns after her children have grown (not until Episode 2; I don't know what Episode 1 is about). She also gets a boyfriend.  Next!

Above Suspicion:
  Given the Netflix history of teasing gay content when there actually isn't any,  I was suspicious of the blurb: "The relationship between a drug-dealing informant and an FBI agent spins out of control," and the trailer showing the two guys working together, with no woman in sight.

So I checked the official trailer, which shows one of the guys meeting, leering at, holding hands with, having sex with, kissing, and rescuing a girl, presumably the drug dealing informant.  And the other guy is nowhere in sight.  You can't fool me with queerbaiting, Netflix!   Next!

Vanquish:  "A woman trying to put her criminal past behind her gets blackmailed into taking on a  dangerous mission by a corrupt ex-cop when he kidnaps her daughter."  Have you ever read such a convoluted, over-written mouthful of a sentence?  And it doesn't even make sense.  When you kidnap someone's daughter, it's coercion, not blackmail.  Hard pass.

Pitch Perfect: A 2012 musical about dueling boy-girl a capella groups.  Sounds awfully derivative, and Wikipedia doesn't list any gay characters.  Besides, it stars Adam DeVine (Kelvin on The Righteous Gemstones), and I'm suffering from Kelvin/Keefe overload.

After Earth
: A 2013 sci-fi movie with Will Smith and his son Jaden crash-landing on an abandoned Earth.  Jaden identifies as genderqueer and LGBT+, but I'm pretty sure that his character doesn't  Next!

Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys.   Something about two women being overcome by jealousy, greed, and hypocrisy, but Tyler Perry, who unapologetically fills his movies with the most retro homophobia imaginable, is an immediate turn-off.  Next!

Where the Weather is Fine
:  A woman moves from Seoul to a small town (why would you ever?) and falls in love with a mild-mannered bookstore guy. Next!

The Good/Bad Mother: :"A tragic accident leaves an ambitious prosecutor with the mind of a child and his mother with her life turned upside down.  I'm pretty sure that this will preclude any same-sex romance, but include lots of cringy mother love.  Next!

The Queenmaker: "After a tragic accident turns her life upside down."  Geez, not another one.  Can't they think of any other way to start a story.  There's also a "violent incident," "shocking news," and "a dangerous endgame."  I'm drowning in cliches.  Next!

Aedil Hai Mushkill: An Indian man and woman fall in love, which "turns their lives upside down."   There's also dancing.   Next!

Oh, that's it.  Maybe I'll pick up a book. 

May 7, 2023

"Love and Anarchy": A Prank War at a Struggling Stockholm Publishing House, with Male Nudity

 Love and Anarchy appeared on my Netflix recommendations.  I clicked to see what it was about, forgetting that on Netflix, "click" means "start."  And since I was eating a bowl of Cheerios, I let it continue.

Scene 1: A harried middle-aged man and woman in a fancy house coordinating their calendars and telling their preteen son "No gaming at the breakfast table." The woman chugs some espresso, talking about how this is her first day on the job. Teenage Isabel comes in, not wearing the coat Dad bought for her.  This causes a crisis. 

The woman goes upstairs, locks herself in the bathroom, and masturbates to porn on her cell phone.  Are we supposed to be titilated or judgmental, or are we to assume that she's having marital problems?  Everybody masturbates, but nobody admits that they do.

Scene 2: She is walking through a square in downtown Stockholm, at dusk or pre-dawn, checking her cell phone.  An older guy welcomes her to his publishing house.   He shows her to her new office, which is a disaster-area of books and manuscripts: the former senior editor was a bit of a hoarder.  

Scene 3: The woman -- Sofie -- giving a speech to the staff.  She's an independent consultant who saves publishing companies from bankruptcy by pushing them into the digital age, whether they like it or not. As she is ignoring a question about layoffs, a hot young guy comes in late and accidentally spills his drink over his crotch.  While he is dabbing at his bulge with a napkin, Sofie stares, mesmerized.

Scene 4:
Sofie in her office, grimacing at the clutter.  Books --- ugh -- they might as well be stone tablets!  She piles some armloads outside her door to be trashed, and sees the hot young guy (Bjorn Mosten, top photo and left) on a ladder drilling (and drilling...and drilling).  Receptionist tells her that he's Max, the IT Guy.  "He doesn't usually do much drilling."  "Well, tell him to drill quietly!"

Max scoffs.  "How am I supposed to do my job?"  Receptionist doesn't answer; she's staring at his butt.  He storms out.

Scene 5: A publication meeting.  We are introduced to the Literary Drector (elderly guy) and the PR director (young woman), plus the intern who handles the social media presence (5000 followers on Instagram!).  PR Director wants to publish a novel "full of gay sex and drugs at an ayahuasca retreat," while Literary Director wants to publish a book of poetry about fir trees.   

Sofie suggests skipping the fir tree poems and tweaking the "gay sex and drugs" novel to draw the interest of heterosexual men. Heterosexist enabler!

Scene 5:  Dinner with the family.  Sofie complaining about how old-fashioned her clients are.  They don't even have digital book contracts!   Suddenly she gets a phone call and rushes upstairs, annoying her husband: "We're eating!"

It's her Dad, complaining about the working class unionizing.  She tells him to stop watching the news; it's upsetting and useless.

Scene 6:  Sofie in bed, reading a book while Husband snores.  Hey, I thought she hated books!  She sneaks into the bathroom to masturbate. 

Scene 7:  At work, they are signing the contract with the woman who wrote the "gay sex and drugs" novel. "Just some final revisions."  While Literary Director is trying to figure out how to take her photo with a cell phone, an elderly author walks by, and he rushes out to hung him: "I didn't see you at the club!"  Is Literary Director gay? 

Nope -- it was just a gay tease. 

Elderly Author sent the Gay-Sex-and-Drugs Author a dick pic (how did they even meet?), so PR Director wants to dump him, even though he's been their biggest moneymaker for 30 years. Literary Director asks what his dick has to do with his writing talent.  All literary geniuses have scandals.

Scene 8: Sofie reading reports.  Max starts drilling again. She rushes out in a huff and demands that he not drill during work hours.  He says "What a bitch!" and storms off.  They'll be screwing by Episode 3. 

Scene 9: 
 Night.  Sofie still in the office, working.  Husband Johan (Johannes Kuhnke,left, old photo) is filming, so she calls the sitter to say that she'll be late, and please put the kids to bed.

Everyone's gone, so why not masturbate?   In an office with the blinds open, so anyone who comes into the main suite can see her?  At least close the blinds!

At that moment Max comes in -- she said don't drill during working hours -- and sees her.  He snaps a photo and leaves.

Scene 10: Morning.  Sofie arrives at work.  With an evil grin, Max reveals that he has a photo of her masturbating in the office, and will show it to the boss unless she...he hasn't decided yet.  Then he begins drilling -- loudly.  What is she going to do about it? How much drilling do you need to install a cable?

Scene 11: Whoops, another crisis: Dad was caught shoplifting in a grocery store: it had turned cashless, and he "refuses to be a victim of the digital system," so he just walked out with his sausage.  Sofie pays for it.

Scene 12:
At home, Sofie complains about Dad to Husband Johan, while he stands in his underwear: "He's not taking his meds.  He won't even acknowledge that he's sick."  

 Then she complains about Max being "arrogant" (that is, sexy).   "Well, fire him!"  ""  Instead she researches him on social media, trying to find a scandal for bargaining.

Scene 13:  Max in a restaurant -- with a male friend!  Maybe he's gay.  

Nope, it was another gay tease.  He cruises the middle-aged woman at the next table.

Scene 14: They're having sex (no beefcake).

Scene 15: Back at work. Sofie offers Max money to delete the picture, but he says "It's nothing.  Just buy me lunch."  Darn, I thought the picture was going to go viral on the internet, and ruin Sofie's marriage. 

Scene 16: Not even a nice lunch -- they eat at a fast-food place.  Max asks the usual first-date questions, and Sofie gives noncommittal answers. 

A snoopy friend drops by, and wonders why Sofie is with a Hot Young Guy while married to someone else. Coworkers can go to lunch, right? Feeling guilty, Sofie gets rid of her.

Max gives Sofie his phone so she can delete the photo, but she won't give it back "until you do something fucked-up at work."  Then, I guess, they'll be even?

Scene 7: Grinning triumphantly, Sofie returns to work.  After hiding the cell phone she stole, she interrupts a damage-control meeting. Gay-Sex-and-Drugs Author got even with Elderly Author by posting his dick pic on her Instagram page. And everybody saw it!  PR Director rants: "Now we have to drop him!"  Literary Director: "No, he's an artist!"  

  At that moment, someone posts a picture of a vagina on the publishing company's Instagram page!  Before they can delete, people have taken screenshots and re-posted it.  So much for damage control!  

They rush to Max (who, you recall, is their IT Guy) and demand that he find out who posted the vagina pic.  "Maybe we were hacked by ISIS, or the Russians," he suggests. "But there's no way to be sure." But Sofie knows that he did it.  She returns his cell phone.

Then she gives him her favorite lipstick.  "Tell me what I have to do to get it back."  So they're going to be playing a fun prank game? The end.

Beefcake: None here, but in a later episode, Max is totally nude, with a full penis shot.  And he's not even having sex at the time.  Check out the post on Tales of West Hollywood.

Other Sights: Some random exteriors of Stockholm.

Gay Characters: Presumably the Gay-Sex-and-Drugs Author, but she doubtless will not appear again.

Gay Teases: 2

Heterosexism: Yes.

My Grade: C

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