May 27, 2023

"Intertwined": A Disney Teen Angst Dramedy about Musical Theater. Guess How Many Gay Characters


Intertwined, on Disney Plus, is a Brazilian teen-angst dramedy with the standard "Everybody can, and should want to, become famous" message.  The angle: the aspiring-to-musical-theater-stardom  girl keeps bouncing back between 2022, when her Mom has an irrational hatred of anything musical, and 1994, when teenage Mom wanted to become a musical-theater-star.  Anything with musical theater is bound to have some gay characters, so:

Scene 1: A teenage girl bounces over her bedroom, feeling herself and singing about how she's going to be a star.  We fade out into an elaborate set, with her dressed as Hannah Montana and singing about how she's a star already, while her female background dancers feel themselves. So far, other than the implied masturbation, she's every Disney teencom protagonist ever.

As her audience goes wild with fan exultation (Allegra!  Allegra!  Allegra!), she comes back to reality: Mom, who looks the same age, asks her to not perform mastubatory song and dance numbers at 4:00 am. "Mom, that's so unreasonable!  I'm using ear buds!"  "I don't care.  I hate music.  And take that poster of your famous singer grandmother off the wall.  I hate her, too!"

She orders Allegra to come work at the bookstore with her tomorrow, instead of doing that thing that will make all her dreams come true.  That thing is an open audition for a stage musical based on the film Freaky Friday, about a mom and daughter who switch bodies.  

Scene 2: Morning
.  Allegra's male bff Felix (Kevsho) sneaks in through the window.   He's got a project of his own, a short film which will make all his dreams come true, but he agrees to drop it and concentrate on Allegra's problem.  His part of the plan involves putting on a wig and makeup and pretending to be Allegra so she can sneak out for the audition. Won't Mom know right away? 

She scooters past various buildings and signs that will no doubt be important later, and stands in the block-long line to get into the vast audition space.  A Boy/Girl Influencer team  helpfully tell their followers what the play is about. No, Boy Influencer Alan isn't gay; he has an unrequited crush on someone named Sofia.  Plot dump: he is Felix's brother.   Got all that?

Scene 3:
Felix lying in bed as Allegra, using recorded messages to answer Mom's questions, and getting it wrong.  

Meanwhile, the Male and Female Choreographers begin the audition. Plot dump: Male Choreographer Diego (Benjamin Amadeo) is the Female Influencer's father.  The first group touch themselves while dancing to a song about making their dreams come true.  Yes, you have genitals.  How very nice for you.  The second group.  Then a girl in an orange sweater sings a solo about making her dreams come true. 

Meanwhile, Mom gets suspicious about the mysterious bulge in her daughter's bed, and investigates.  It's Felix!  She interrogates him about Allegra's whereabouts, but he plays dumb. Plot dump: He's really into science fiction and superheroes.  These are not the traits of gay guys on tv, so I'm guessing he's straight, with an unrequited crush...

Mom snoops around and finds the audition announcement, just as it's Allegra's turn to perform the "making my dreams come true" song.  The Choreographers are mesmerized by how incredibly wonderful she is.  But it's understandable, because she's the granddaughter of Coco Sharpe, the most talented singer in the world in her day.  Then Mom burst in, shrieking: "No, no, no!  Absolutely not! I will have no daughter of mine singing!  Or listening to music of any kind!  Music is disgusting!"

The Choreographers were her best friends when they were teenagers, and they are anxious to catch up, but Mom shrieks "I never knew you.  I never knew anyone associated with...ugh!  I don't even know what the word 'music' means, I hate it so much."

"But...Allegra is the best singer we have heard since her Grandmother.  She's going to be world-famous!"

"Absolutely not!"  Mom drags her out and shoves her into the car. "And by the way, never mention your grandmother Coco to me.  I hate my Mother with white hot intensity!  I wish she were still alive, so I could kill her, then bring her back to life, then kill her again!"  She's not looking where she's driving, so...crash!  

Scene 4
: And Allegra unconscious in the hospital, while Mom, totally fine, cries.  Suddenly we hear "You can't go in there!", and a sunglasses lady floats into the room.  It's Mom's grandmother?   So, the mother of Coco Sharpe, whom Mom hates?  This genealogy is getting complex.  I just want to know if any of these people are gay.  

Felix (Kevsho): No.  In spite of his gay bff vibe, he's in love with Allegra.

Male Choreographer Diego (Benjamin Amadeo): No.  He's got a daughter, a sure sign of gay identity on tv.

Male Influencer (Simon Hempe, left): No, a crush on Sofia.

Marco (Jose Jiminez Zapiola, not introduced yet. top photo): No, into Allegra.

What a cop-out.  Why do they think we watch these programs?  For the songs?

"Never Have I Ever": Indian Teenager Meets the Bulge That Can Raise the Dead

The teen coming-of-age comedy Never Have I Ever showed up on my recommendation list on Netflix.  It's been a desert for so long that we returned to the DVD service.  So...

Scene 1. Fifteen-year old Indian-American Devi (Maitreya Ramakrishnan) is praying, sort of -- does it count if you ask the gods, "What's popping?"  Her requests: to be invited to a party with alcohol; to get less arm hair; and to get a stone-cold hottie boyfriend.

Gee, if the Hindu gods provide hotties, I might set up an altar to Ganesha in my bedroom.

Scene 2. John McEnroe, the tennis legend,narrates Devi's story.  First her father (Sendhil Ramamurthy) dies.  Then her legs stop working, confining her to a wheelchair.

She had two friends, science nerd Fabiana and drama queen Eleanor.  Plus she has a crush on Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Daren Barnet).

Cue him rising from the swimming pool and walking past at bulge-level.  Whew!  Is it even possible to have one that big?  What does he call it, Godzilla?).

And suddenly, her legs work again.  She rises from her wheelchair and walks!

So...what else can Paxton's bulge raise up?

Scene 3. Devi lives with her micromanaging Mom ("Don't let the textbook fall to the floor!  I'll have to drove all the way out to Rancho Cucamonga to get it blessed again!) and her perfect cousin Kamala ("I'm not a model, I'm a biologist.  I'm too curvaceous to be a model).

Scene 4. At Sherman Oaks High, Devi reveals her plan to rebrand the squad, making them "glamorous women of color" through getting boyfriends.  She wants Fabiola to date the short  but handsome Alex Gomez, and Eleanor gets Boris Kozlov,the Russian exchange student (shown eating an onion like an apple).

Devi herself is going for Jonah Sharpe (Dino Petrera), who presents every gay stereotype in the book but is not out yet, and so popular that she can springboard from him to a straight guy.

Meanwhile, Devi's nemesis, Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison), overhears their flirtation.

Scene 5. Ben's father is an entertainment attorney, so a celebrity I never heard of came to his bar mitzvah. He's a know-it-all, an elitist, a snob.  He has no friends.  He and Devi have been competiting for awards and honors for years.

Sounds ike a teen romance coming up.

Scene 6. Time for the hip bohemian teacher Mr. Shapiro to begin class: "Facing History and Ourselves."  They'll be unpacking uncomfortable topics like slavery (he looks at Fabiana) and the Holocaust (he looks at Ben).

Then Paxton the God shows up, and Devi decides to jump past the gay guy to grab for the pot of gold...or should that be bulge of gold?

Scene 7, Teacher asks Devi and Ben to set aside their rather aggressive, sometimes violent rivalry for the good of the class.  Ben reveals that his nickname for the squad, the U.N., doesn't refer to the United Nations, but to "Unfuckable Nerds."

Shaming girls for being virgins? This is really a new world.

Scene 8. Devi vents to her psychiatrist.  then goes home and vents to her mother and cousin.  Mom reveals that Kamala's parents have found a match for an arranged marriage.  Kamala is horrified by the prospect.

Scene 9.Devi's Dad comes back from the dead to show her an old video of John McEnroe, who never took any guff from anyone (that's why McEnroe is narrating -- he was her Dad's Paxton. I wonder if Dad liked his bulge)..  Dad  advises Devi to fight back against Ben.

Scene 10. In the morning, Devi and the squad show up at school in sexy outfits (or what they think is sexy).   The plan: talk to their targets. Devi and Ben fight,and get sent to the principal's office.

Scene 11: Ben and Devi are assigned an after-school job as punishment.  They interrupt Eleanor the Drama Queen smooching a boy!  She was afraid to tell Devi that she has a boyfriend. Devi insults her, rushes home screaming, and throws a textbook  out the window.

She's rather unhinged, isn't she?  Why is she so upset?  Does she have a thing for Eleanor?

Scene 12: Devi tells her psychiatrist about the secret boyfriend.  Why is she so upset?  She explains:  she wants to "be normal, and not be called mean names, and have a boyfriend."

Only Ben calls you names, girl.

Scene 13: Devi decides to skip the boyfriend and go straight to the lost virginity that is apparently essential for social success.  She asks Paxton the God to have sex with her.  He consents.

I'm no expert on female sexuality,but should she really be going with the extra-extra-extra large Paxton for her first time?  Maybe start with something a little smaller, like ab elephant trumk.

Beefcake:  Just Paxton in a swimsuit walking by at bulge level. 

Other Scenery:  Just generic houses.

Gay Characters: Screaming queen stereotype Jonah in the background.

The Indian Angle:  Sort of interesting.

Fast Forwarding:  Fabiana comes out as a lesbian.  Ben and Devi kiss (I called it!). Kamala has a plot arc that sounds more interesting.  Paxton has a sister with Down Syndrome, which also sounds more interesting.  And Devi works through her grief at her father's death.

Wait -- is the quest for a boyfriend a reaction to her father's sudden disappearance, a psychological replacement thing?  That's why when Dad died, she lost "support" and couldn't walk, but seeing Paxton gave her new "support"?

Will I Continue to Watch: No.

Adventures of Pete and Pete

Juvenile tv programs of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, and Andy's Gang,  were dedicated to socializing kids into the norms of adult society.  The rules may seem odd, the hosts seemed to say, but they were established by wise, sensible adults, and if you conform, this will be the best of all possible worlds.

Then came the 1980s and 1990s, and tv juvenile tv programs like You Can't Do That on Television, Animaniacs, and Eerie Indiana, said something quite different.  Adults are crazy. Their rules make no sense.  Don't even try to conform society: rebel, resist, be yourself.

The benchmark of this new anarchic juvenile tv was Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete and Pete (1993-96), about two brothers, teenage Pete (Mike Maronna) and preteen Pete (Danny Tamberelli) living with their parents in the town of Wellsville, New York.

If the two brothers with the same name don't clue in that something is askew in Wellsville, what about the opening song:

Hey, Smilin' Strange, you're looking happily deranged
I could've settled if you shoot me, or have you picked your target yet?

Or the characters:
Mom, who has a steel plate in her head that can pick up radio.
Artie, the Strongest Man in the World, who can move a house a whole inch!
Mr. Slurm, the high school shop teacher with a claw for a hand.
Pit Stain Jones, a super-villain whose powers are obvious

Big Pete is drawing close to adulthood, so he is the most conformist, with part-time jobs and career plans and crushes on girls.

But Little Pete resists the International Adult Conspiracy on bedtimes and dodgeball, and investigates such mysteries as the "Inspector" tag in clothing, the "time warp" of Daylight Savings Time, and a telephone that has been ringing for 27 years.

Heterosexual romance is a constant among the adult and teen characters, but Little Pete resists the International Adult Conspiracy on hetero-romance, too.  He is mostly successful, reserving his affection for Big Pete and for his "hero," Artie the Strongest Man in the World.

The bizarre adult world provides some gay symbolism, and Little Pete's resistance to hetero-romance marks him as gay-vague.  But there is even more of gay interest.  Although Big Pete has an ongoing hetero-romance and occasional side crushes, boys often fall in love with him: not only his friends Bill (Rick Barbarette) and Teddy (Dave Martell), but even his friendly enemy, Endless Mike (Rick Gomez, top photo and left).  I always wondered why he was called "Endless."

After Pete and Pete, Michael C. Maronna starred in some young-adult-slacker comedies before moving behind the scenes as a studio electrician.  Danny Tamberelli starred in Igby Goes Down (2002), with Kieran Culkin.

May 24, 2023

"We Have Your Boys!": A Kelvin and Keefe Fan Fiction

Kelvin, son of the famous megachurch pastor Eli Gemstone, paced, checked his cell phone, and paced again.  His boyfriend Keefe left at 8:00 am to go rollerblading with their brother-in-la w BJ.  They went roller-blading every Friday, a sort of bonding time and chance to get away from the Gemstone drama.  Except they were always back by 10:00.   It was now after 2:00.  No calls, no texts, and Kelvin's texts to him went unanswered. 

"Keefe is a grown man," he told himself.  "He doesn't need to check in with me.  Maybe he and BJ decided to go shopping and have lunch."

He paced some more.  "Maybe his cell phone died, so he can't call."  When he bought Keefe the cell phone, he considered installing "friend tracker" app, but that would be too much control.  Keefe moved in two years ago with nothing; everything he owned was a gift or came from the joint checking account. Gulp.  Maybe he felt like a kept boy, trapped in the mansion, an extension of the Gemstones. Could he have....left?

No way!  Kelvin was not going to check the joint account, to see if Keefe made any big withdrawals.  Even thinking it was ridiculous.

Suddenly someone was banging on the front door.  Gulp...the police, coming to tell him that there'd been an accident?  No, his sister Judy, BJ's wife.

"Don't you ever check your email, Dummy?" she yelled, banging into the house.

The full story is on Righteous Gemstones Beefcake and Boyfriends

May 22, 2023

Why Hot Stuff Wears a Diaper

One of the Harvey Comics stable of magical beings, Hot Stuff the Little Devil is a queer outsider.  He lives in the same Enchanted Forest as Casper, Wendy, and Spooky, but their paths never cross.  There is no devil society, like the ghosts have; Hot Stuff rarely encounters another devil.  In most stories he is alone, peering into the daylit world without understanding it, or defending himself from its threats.

To emphasize his outsider status, many stories have Hot Stuff trapped in bizarre sub-worlds with their own incomprehensible rules, struggling to break free.

One wonders why Hot Stuff isn't underground with the other devils.  Was he banished, cast out of Paradise for some fault only devils know of?

Hot Stuff also has a sexual potential that the other magical beings lack. First, his name is 1950s slang for "sexually appealing," and you would call someone a "little devil" for making a mischievous sexual advance.

Second, he carries a phallic trident, which fails here as an ice king freezes his flames.

Third, the ghosts wear no clothes, and their bodies are smooth and formless, but Hot Stuff's asbestos diaper suggests a need to cover sex organs.

And infancy -- Hot Stuff is very, very young, in spite of his self-sufficiency.  Like a baby, his main concerns are eating and sleeping.  But he will grow. He will become tall and strong, and potent, in a way that the ghosts never will.

When that day come, will he long for the male or the female?

Hot Stuff occasionally encounters the Fairy Princess Charma, but she is by no means a regular character, and they are not interpreted as romantic partners.  Instead, she makes attempts to civilize him, to draw him from his savage infant world through gender polarization.  Here, for instance, he grudgingly allows her to use his super-hot hand to iron clothes.

In a story from 1970, Hot Stuff and a friend wonder what games human children play.  They peer in a window at a group of boys and girls playing “spin the bottle," in which you must spin and then bestow a kiss upon whomever the bottle points to (in the presumably gay-free 1970s, opposite sex only).  The two devils rush back to the Enchanted Forest and play their own version of the game, bestowing zaps of fire rather than kisses.  They, and the human children, do not experience heterosexual desire at all, and can only imagine that heterosexual practice is a form of torture.

When Hot Stuff grows up, he will long for the male.

See also: Why the Devil has no Penis.
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