May 20, 2023

Sunny's Mac Finds His Pride

I first posted on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in 2013.  I was a big fan of the show, about five schemers who run Paddy's bar in Philadelphia.

1.-2. Self-absorbed Ivy League educated Dennis and his sister Dee (Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson)
3. Their wealthy con-artist father Frank (veteran actor Danny Devito)
4. The dimwitted but highly bulgeworthy Charlie (Charlie Day)
5. Conflicted muscleman Mac (Rob McElhenney)

Some of the episodes went for cringe-inducing bad taste, but there was buddy-bonding, a strong gay subtext between Charlie and Frank, and a lot of beefcake, so what's not to like?

Well, I didn't like Mac much.  He was muscular but homophobic.  He dates a transwoman and worries that it makes him gay. He goes off on a Leviticus-rant at a gay couple.

TV sitcoms become more and more extreme over time, as character traits are exaggerated. Homer Simpson becomes not just a little dim, but a complete idiot.  George Costanza moves from self-absorbed to sociopathic.  Sunny upped the cringe-inducing poor taste, and the gang began manipulating each other.  Cruelly.  So I stopped watching.

I just discovered that Mac figured out that he was gay at the end of Season 12:  he had a vision of a beautiful woman who turned out to be God, and said it was ok to be gay.  But he's still conflicted:  "I don't know where I fit in as a gay man.  I don't know who I am."

He's not ready for sex or a relationship yet.

A whole year after coming out?

In the last episode of Season 13, Frank tells him that he has to "find his pride."  He has an ulterior motive, of course: he wants Mac to dance on the pride parade float that the gang is building to draw gay customers into the bar.

The other characters are absent, or appear only briefly.  This story is about Frank and Mac.

Frank forces Mac to go to a S&M club (with a buffet) and then a drag club, on the way making stunningly
 homophobic statements like "If any of these fairies makes a pass at me...", "Are you the boy or the girl?", and "I don't get it.  I'll never get it."

Well, that last one is not homophobic, just rude.  I don't get how anyone would be interested in sex with a woman, but it's really none of my business, so if you like that sort of thing, go for it.

(Photo copyright FX).

Wait --  Frank was never homophobic before.  And if he's so homophobic, why is he on board with the plan to attract gay customers?

Mac announces that sex is not the way for him to "find his pride."  He wants to come out to his father, who is in prison. 

His first attempt to come out fails: Dad thinks he's going to become a father. 

So for Try #2, Frank arranges for him to speak to an auditorium full of inmates, including his father.

Mac rips off his shirt to reveal a crazy ripped body and performs a beautifully choreographed pas-de-deux with a woman.  They separate, long for each other, reconcile, separate again.  He rejects her.  She screams, trying to get into his life, but he rejects her.  She chases him.  Finally, exhausted, Mac falls into her lap.  She caresses him and says "It's ok."

Dad leaves in disgust, but Frank, his foster father, exclaims "I get it!", tears running down his cheeks.

So how is this coming out?

If the woman is God, it's a sort of Hound-of-Heaven thing.  Mac keeps rejecting God, or thinking that God rejects him, due to his gayness, but finally he gives up.  God tells him that it's ok to be gay.

 I had the Blessed Virgin telling me that it was ok to be gay, and I wasn't even Catholic.

He couldn't be dancing with a guy: a pas-de-deux with some muscle hunk would indicate that he was already out, and this is about his struggle to accept his gayness and God's love.  Finding his pride.

It's a stunning conclusion that almost makes Frank's out-of-character homophobia ok.

See also: Why You Should Watch "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

May 18, 2023

"The Girl in the Mirror": Amnesia, Demons, Mafiosi, and a Gay Couple in a Paranormal/Teen Angst Drama


The icon of the Spanish teen drama series The Girl in the Mirror shows two guys hugging.  Neither the blurb nor the episode descriptions give any hints of gay characters: a girl loses her memory in bus crash that kills most of her classmates.   A boy also survives.  Trying to unravel some mysteries involving both drug-deals and paranormal prophecies, they spend all of their time to together, and no doubt fall in love.  

So where's the guy-hugging?  I watched Episode 2, where "Tom says goodbye to a friend."  Maybe his boyfriend died in the accident?

Scene 1: We jump right into the paranormal: a voiceover tells us that this land is the hiding place of the demon Therion.  A prehistoric boy summons him by making carvings of his five animal spirits, and then eating a poisonous mushroom, so he's close to death.  Therion then decides to save him by taking over his body.   Why would you want a demon to possess you?

Scene 2:
An old guy tells a boy named Alex (Alejandro Serrano) that he has only one of the animal carvings.  He hid the others far apart, so no one could bring Therion back into the world.  A Bearded Guy, Alex's brother, comes in and notes that Grandpa is having one of his semi-lucid days.

Meanwhile, bus crash survivor Alma is getting ready to leave the hospital and go home with parents that she doesn't recognize.  She says "Adios" to an empty chair.  Getting visions of Therion?

Scene 3: On the way home, Alma gets a memory of someone named Deva telling her "I have to talk to you about what happened yesterday."  Of course, she doesn't remember what it was about.  Is this  teen angst or demonic possession?  You can't have both.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, the doctor hacks into a secret security system and looks at the cell phone records of someone named Martin.  Sinister music plays.

Scene 4: Bearded Guy is in the mountains, searching for something -- the other animal carvings?  He looks at some texts from Martin: "I wish I could stay with you...."  Ok, Martin must be the dead boyfriend.

Scene 5: Alma is surprised to find that she lives in a dark, sinister mansion in a cliffside village.  How Gothic!  

Uh-oh, she's on crutches, and her room is upstairs.  Getting up there is too much of a struggle, so Dad carries her to one of the downstairs guest rooms.  Later he tells Mom that he didn't want Alma to see her old room: because then she would find out about Lara, and she must never know. Are Mom and Dad in cahoots with Therion?

Scene 6: 
 Cute curly-haired Tomas (Alex Villazan, top photo and left) wakes up in a room full of swimming trophies. He lost a leg in the bus crash, so no more swimming, but at least the flashback shows a muscular physique and nice bulge.  He falls on the way to his wheelchair, and Dad rushes to his aid.  "I don't need help, snarl snarl!  I'm not a useless puta (asshole)."

Two detectives visit.  The autopsies revealed that most of the students in the crash had been taking drugs, and Carlos, the bus driver, had a bag of pills on him.  So maybe he was DUI, driving under the influence.

Tomas remembers what caused the accident: something jumped into the road with flashing lights and a strange buzzing sound.  The detectives imply that it was a hallucination from the drugs. Are we adding aliens to the mix?

Scene 7:
Bearded Guy, Bruno (Pol Monen), goes back to the hotel he runs.  The doctor from Scene 3 is there.  She's Martin's sister, suspecting that he's still alive, and hiding out with Bruno.  "No.  He was a nice guy, very sensitive.  I've been looking for him since the accident."  So Martin was on the bus, but his body was never found. 

Doctor Sister: "Ok, but an employee of my father is looking for Martin, too.  It's very important that he DOESN'T find him."  So Martin's dad wants him killed?  

Scene 8:  Scraggly-haired girl, shaved from recent brain surgery, tells Tomas: #1, I believe your story about the thing that jumped into the road; #2, Alma's lack of memory is not amnesia; #3, all of the survivors are in danger. 

Scene 9:  In the scary Gothic mansion, the dog begs Alma to play fetch with a ball of yarn.  It rolls out into the corridor.  Alma follows, and dog is begging someone else to play fetch.  But there's no one around!

Scene 10:  Grandpa and Alex from Scene 2 have invaded the cheese cave.  Bruno chastises them for eating cheese. He hears a strange noise from deper in the cave, "probably an animal that fell down a crevice.  We have to rescue it."   

Alex is small, so he goes in, attached to Bruno by a rope.  Instead of an animal, he finds a huge altar, human skulls, and a flickering shape -- that chases him.  Plus Martin's bracelet!  Obviously he stumbled into the cave after the accident.  

Back home, Bruno calls Doctor Sister (Diana) with the new intel.  She freaks out.  "Delete this call, and don't tell anyone else about this!"  "But we have to call the rescue squad.  He could still be in the cave." 

Bruno: "I know Martin isn't dead.  When our parents died, I knew.  I could sense it, like a vast emptiness.  I don't feel that with Martin."

Alex: "But they were our parents. You loved them, so there was a powerful psychic link.  But you didn't love Martin, right?, that explains the guy from Australia last year...."  Big Brother just came out to you, kid.

Scene 11:  At the hospital, a girl tells Tomas that her brother, survivor Roque, is being taken off life support.  "I thought you'd want to say goodbye."  She wheels him into the hospital room.  "We know this is not easy for you," Roque's Mom tells him.  Wait -- it's harder for Tomas than for the guy's Mom.  Was he a boyfriend?  

They leave him alone to say goodbye.  He grabs Roque's hand and talks about how much he loves him, and he has to fight.  "You can't leave!"  

I expected Roque to get up, but apparently Tomas didn't get psychic powers in the accident.  Instead he goes home, looks at photos of Roque, and cries, while the family gathers for the plug-pulling.  

Scene 12:  Middle of the night.  Alma gets up and goes into the kitchen for a snack.  A thread from the ball of yarn is taunt, leading up the stairs. to what is apparently her old room, with lots of photos of her and another girl. She asks "Who are you?  Why did you bring me here?"

Meanwhile, Tomas is awakened by an "eerie whooshing sound," and gets a text from a dead girl.  Darn, I thought he was gay.  And Roque wakes up!

Beefcake: The Tomas flashback.  Also he hangs out in a muscle shirt a lot.

Heterosexism: No boy-girl romance was evident in this episode.

Gay Characters:  Obviously Bruno and Martin.  I think Tomas has a dead girlfriend.

My Grade: Trying to combine the bus crash investigation, the demon, various paranormal activities, and high school secrets that may or may not be related?  It's exhausting.  When you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing.  But at least there's a gay couple.  C+.

"Xo, Kitty": Four LGBT Characters and Counting at a Private School in Korea


Xo, Kitty, on Netflix, is a spin-off of the "To All the Boys" movies, which I've never heard of, but it's apparently about a Korean-American girl who enrolls in a fancy private school in Seoul and gets embroiled in teenage-y love triangles. Or quadrangles. A review said that there are two gay characters, each of whom gets a teenage-y love plotline: two girls, plus Q (Anthony Keyvan) and Florian (Theo Augier, below.  That's a femme boy he's with, from the tv series Mythomaniac).

Scene 1: The Korean-American Kitty floating in the pool, talking to her rich long-distance boyfriend, but he gets cut off.  Yuck, way too much of her body on display.  She sees a boy-girl couple smooching in the hot tub, another feeding each other (gross!  the sight of adults feeding each other is disgusting!),and a boy-boy couple massaging each other (yay!  representation!).  She gets all jealous.  Everybody in Portland is hooking up but her!

A phone call from KISS!  Not the rock band, a prestigious private school in Korea.  She's in!  After an antiquated "yes!" arm gesture, she rushes home to tell the folks.

Scene 2:
  Kitty delivering a powerpoint presentation about "Kitty and Dae: Love Against All Odds."  That's how you're going to convince your parents to let you attend high school in Korea?  Maybe mention getting in touch with your cultural heritage?   Flashback to the previous movies, where Kitty specialized in hooking people up, including her Dad and his wife (like every protagonist in every teen tv series, Kitty has a Dead Mom).

She continues: while snooping around, she discovered that her Dead Mom spent her junior year in high school at KISS, and met her first pre-Dad love there. "Getting close to Mom and the Boy of My Dreams.  How about it, parental units?"

There's another five minutes of discussion, but of course they say yes, or it be lousy story.

Scene 3:
Kitty at the airport, telling her life story to the bored ticket agent.  She moves on to sit down and text a friend.  Suddenly the most gorgeous guy on Earth walks past in slow motion, his hair blowing in the wind (so to speak), with every woman in the airport gaping at him.  He's carrying a KISS bag!  Kitty tries to cozy up to him, but he just sneers "No English" and walks on.  

By tv-only coincidence, he's Min Ho (Sang Heun Lee), a rich jerk whom Kitty will spar with and call "arrogant."  You know what happens next, right?

Scene 4: Establishing shot of Seoul, then Incheon Airport, where Kitty has humorous mishaps (she's still showing too much skin. Korea is a conservative country, girl -- cover up!).  She misses the bus, takes the subway, and gets lost. Apparently there's no GPS in her phone, and the hot guys she stops to ask directions speak no English.  Didn't you learn any Korean? Cultural heritage, remember?

She walks past a snooty clothing store, where a rich girl is shopping for black lace lingerie, while the clerk gushes abour her Dad's hotel in Dubai.  Then she walks out of the store in slow motion, while reporters photograph her and passersby gush.  

Scene 4:  Oh no, her limo hits Kitty, who falls to the ground, dead.  Actually, Kitty is fine, and asks for a ridee.  They're going to the same place, of course.

She turns out to be Veronica, I mean Yuri, the teenage daughter of ultra-rich multi-billionaire dude Mr. Han. Plot dump: she will turn out to be dating Kitty's soulmate Dae, but only as a cover so Dad won't find out about her lesbian romance.

Scene 5:
Kitty was totally lost: en route to school, the limo passes every major landmark in Seoul!  Cut to Kitty's soulmate Dae (Min-young Choi) discussing his financial problems with the registrar. Plot twist: He's actually poor!  "You have until tonight to pay your tuition, or I'm kicking you out!"

Suddenly Dae gets a text from Kitty.  She didn't tell him that she was coming.  But he doesn't have time for romantic intrigues: he has to come up with the tuition money!

Scene 6: Good grief, another collision.  This girl is accident prone!  I assume that the girl Kitty collides with will become a friend later.

Meanwhile, the Headmistress summons Yuri (the rich girl) to her office.  Ulp, she's Yuri's Mom!  The actress played Sun on "Lost," making me wonder when we'll get a flashback to the mysterious Island.   Mom is upset because she thinks Yuri has a girlfriend, and if word got out, it would ruin all of their lives forever "So, are you canoodling with Juliana?"  "No, I'm canoodling with Dae.  Juliana is my cover." 

Scene 6:  Kitty has a photo of her Dead Mom hugging the Headmistress, when they were students at KISS in the 1990s.  But when she bring this up, the Headmistress says ", I don't remember...would you excuse me?  I need to escape."  The plot thickens.  I'll bet the Headmistress was dating Kitty's Mom.

Scene 7: Kitty moves into her gigantic dorm-apartment. She's jet-lagged, so she falls asleep, but wakes up in time for the big Welcome to KISS party.  She looks around for someone she knows, gets a icy stare from the Headmistress, and..another collision?  It's not funny anymore.  This girl has a problem.  

This time the victims are Min Ho, the rich jerk from the airport, and his bff Q, the gay guy.  But they stop bickering with her to stare in eye-bulging queer-representation lust at...Dae, Kitty's soulmate?  Kitty stares, too: time to surprise him by showing up in Korea, and get her first kiss.  

They rush toward each other like in a romcom, and hug.  But no kiss. ", a girlfriend. Have you met Yuri?"  Kitty shatters into little pieces and runs away, colliding with a few more people on her way out. The end.

Beefcake: None.  But  you  see an inexcusable amount of Kitty's body.  

Gay Characters: the couple by the pool, Yuri and her girlfriend, Q (but he's not out yet), and maybe the Headmistress.

My Grade: A lot of banal plot twists and over-reaction to trivial problems, but I guess that's life for teenagers.  Good LGBT representation.  B

May 14, 2023

Philip Jose Farmer: Gay Sci-Fi with Muscles

When I was in college, you couldn't walk into Adam's Bookstore at the Augustana Student Union or Readmore Book World downtown without seeing a dozen sci-fi novels by Philip Jose Farmer (1918-2009) on display.  Bright, colorful paperbacks with amazingly muscular hunks on the covers, sometimes nude, and stories inside that sounded fascinating.

Sometimes they were.

There were three main types:

1. The World of Tiers: The Maker of Universes (1965), A Private Cosmos (1968), etc.  A man from our world is trapped on a multi-plane world occupied by various human, alien, and mythical beings.   He kills lots of bad guys and falls in love with a girl.  Yawn.

2. The Riverworld series: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971), The Fabulous Riverboat (1972), etc. Every person who has ever existed wakes up on the banks of an endless river.  Richard Burton, Alice Liddel (the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland), Mark Twain, a Neanderthal named Kazz, and other colorful characters search for answers.

The first book is great, but it takes three more before anyone solves the mystery, and then it's a complete let-down: "So this was what all the fuss was about?"

Still, it was nice to imagine every person who has ever lived standing around naked, including Genghis Khan, William Shakespeare, and my high school history teacher,

3. I was most interested in the postmodern, self-referential mash-ups of fictional heroes: Tarzan meets Doc Savage (Lord of the Trees and the Mad Goblin, 1970), and Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of the Peerless Peer, 1974).  

The Jules Verne hero Phineas Fogg meets aliens (The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, 1973).  

Dorothy's son returns to Oz (A Barnstormer in Oz, 1982).

One of the first sci-fi writers to incorporate sexual activity into his stories, Farmer went wild, with graphic descriptions of multiple sexual acts.  But no gay characters that I can recall, though in A Feast Unknown (1969), Tarzan and Doc Savage find that they can only get aroused through violence, so they enter into a violent homoerotic relationship of sorts.  It was originally published as porn.

Also, in Flesh (1960), the good guy mass-murders a tribe of gay-stereotype Elves.

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