Jun 10, 2023

"Bloodhounds": Strong Gay Subtext among Korean Boxers

 Gay subtexts occur when two guys not specifically identified as gay through statements or displays of affection have a relationship that is exclusive (no significant interest in women), domestic (living together), emotionally intense, and permanent (they stay together at the end of the adventure).  Platonic pals could have a similar relationship, of course: that's why it's called a subtext rather than a text.  A casual glance at the Korean action-adventure series Bloodhounds revealed a lot of gay subtext potential, so here goes:

Scene 1
: Innocent-looking Geon-Wu (Woo Doh-Hwan, left) and rowdy-looking Woo-Jin (Lee Sang-Yi, below) practicing boxing in separate empty gyms. Later, on a bus, Geon-Wu intervenes when a passenger refuses to wear a mask and starts assaulting the driver. 

He goes home to find his mother begging creditors for more time to pay, and leaves to avoid embarrassing her.

Scene 2
: Some suit guys discussing how COVID is threatening their hotel business. Loan shark Kim Myeung-Gil (Park Sung-Wong) passes out his business card to everyone. 

Scene 3:
The Rookie of the Year Tournament, in a giant stadium (empty due to COVID).  Rowdy-looking Woo Jin (left), who specializes in weird noises, Maori haka-dancing, and punching himself in the groin, beats two opponents.   

Geon-woo beats his opponent, then rushes to see if he is ok (a really nice guy, apparently).  

Next the guys fight each other.  Rowdy Woo Jin loses, and is devastated.  How could this by-the-books upstart beat him?  He is dishonored forever.

Scene 4:  Geon-woo waits for Rowdy Woo Jin outside the locker room, and invites him to dinner.  "Why, to rub it in?  You won, now get lost!"  But he consents.

Dinner consists of ten minutes of flirting, being way over-impressed by each other's back stories, and figuring out ways to touch each other.   The sexual tension is intense, but the conversation is boring.  

The only statement of interest is when Woo Jin reminisces about being in the marines.  He loved "taking showers together...soaping each other up..."  Geon Woo, surprised, says "So you're...."  Woo Jin: "Of course not!  I was just messing with you."

Scene 5: 
 They walk to the bus stop very slowly, each trying to figure out how to get the other into the bedroom; instead, Woo Jin just asks for a second date.  They discuss the loan sharks who are exploiting everyone, now that COVID is making everyone lose their businesses.  Like Geon-woo's mother, who can't make the rent on her coffee shop.  

Scene 6: Mom on the phone to her creditors. Geon-woo comes in, all excited over the money he won today, and the cute guy he met, not in that order.  But Mom won't take the money to cover the rent: it would be dishonorable.  

Cut to the loan shark crew going from business to business, grinning hungrily as the owners sign the papers.

Scene 7:  Geon-woo's gym is closed due to a COVID exposure!  But his coach tells him to take a week off anyway, and rest after his big tournament.  So he calls Woo Jin.  So early in the morning? If you're too over-eager, you'll scare him off.  "I'm sleeping!"  Woo Jin tells him. "But I'm bored.  Let's hang out."  "So clingy! Ok, you can come over and sleep with me."  

On the way to Woo-Jin's house, Geon-woo stumbles upon a guy getting beat up.  He chases the assailant, who fights back with a taser.  "Who sent you?" the guy wants to know.  "No one -- I just wanted to help."  The guy lets him go.

Cut to a lady trying to pay back an old guy in a library for the loan that allowed her to get her daughter some life-saving surgery.  He refuses: pay off your urgent debts first.  Is this a comparison of "nice" loan guys with evil loan sharks?  When she leaves, he takes out his ledge and cancels the loan.

Scene 8: The assailant, who turns out to be a girl, returns to headquarters and reports that the client didn't have any money, so she took his gold watch instead.  Gasp -- she worksfor the nice library guy, her Grandpa!  "But the watch is worth 20 million won, and I only loaned him 10 million!" Grandpa exclaims, demonstrating his honesty.  

They discuss the evil loan shark gang.  Granddaughter wants to do some recon, but Grandpa thinks it's too dangerous.

Scene 9: 
The guys having breakfast, discussing boxing, and finding new ways to touch each other. They end up wrestling or hugging or something, and chase each other off-camera, where presumably they are kissing. 

Cut to the wealthy Mr. Park celebrating his birthday with dinner and a show: can Kang in-beom (Tae won-suk) smash a watermelon with his bare hands?  He can.  His gift is some golden turtles worth billions of won, and so clean that no one will know they are stolen.  

Scene 10: Kang in-beom also works for the loan sharks: he is tasked with taking fifteen goons and smashing the storefronts of business owners who aren't paying up, including Mom!  

 She calls Geon-woo for help.  He jumps out of Woo-Jin's bed, runs home, and fights the goons.  After he finishes clobbering them, head loan shark Myeung Gil shows up to explain the loan agreement and send in Kang in-beom, who bashes him repeatedly with his head, strangles him, and squeezes him into unconsciousness.  Myeung Gil then slashes his cheek while "laughing sinisterly" according to the subtitles.  The End.

Beefcake: The guys box shirtless.

Gay Subtext:  I went through a couple of episodes on fast-forward. By Episode 3, they're all living with the friendly librarian.  They always appear as a pair.  Neither ever expresses any interest in a girl.  And at the end of the adventure, they (and Mom) go home together.  

That's every characteristic of a gay subtext.  It's almost text, except there are no overtly romantic displays of affection, like holding hands, kissing, or having sex, and the lack of expressed interest in women is not unusual in Korean dramas.  

Jun 9, 2023

The Top 10 Hunks of Shazam

Captain Marvel (1941-53) was DC Comics' attempt to circumvent the obvious homoeroticism in the 1940s superhero-teen sidekick relationship by making the two the same person.  14-year old Billy Batson transforms into adult superhero Captain Marvel when he says the magical word Shazam.

Which, by the way, is an acronym for the magical beings who bestowed the power upon him: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, Mercury.

It's all very silly, and it provides a new problem: how to give Captain Marvel a girlfriend, when he's really a teenage boy with muscles?  He can't very well be dating Lois Lane.

The 2019 movie has Billy (Asher Angel) turning into an unnamed superhero (played by Zachary Levi).  But it also gives Billy a sidekick of his own, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer).

And, in the absence of a girlfriend, they have a gay-subtext romance.

Plus one of his foster-home buddies, Pedro (Jovan Armand) appears to identify as gay when they hide out in a strip club and he says "not my thing."

The result is a pleasantly non-heterosexist superhero movie, which also has a surprising number of hunkoids in the cast.

1. Adam Brody, Freddy's adult superhero alter-ego (left).

2. Zachary Levi.

3. All of the other residents of Billy's foster home morph into superheroes.  Eugene (Ian Chen) into Ross Butler

4. Pedro (Jovand Armand) into D. J. Cotrona

5. Instead of a whole fraternity of immortals from the Bible and Greek and Roman mythology, Shazam is a single person, played by Djimon Hounsou.

6. Cooper Andrews as the beefy foster father to the superheroic crew.

7 Mark Strong plays the Big Bad, Dr. Silvana, who unleashes the Seven Deadly Sins (Sloth, Lust, Envy, and so on) onto the world.  What's with all the villains with Ph.D.s?  Part of the culture of anti-intellectualism?

8. The teen idol set is already familiar with Asher Angel.

9. Evan Marsh as the main bully who is terrorizing Freddy.

10. Landon Doak as the bullying brother who terrorizes a teenage Dr. Silvana.

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia": Poop, Teeth Extraction, and Gay Denial. Sounds Fun, RIght?

I haven't reviewed an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia since 2018, when Mac came out through a pas-de-deux with a lady, and I hadn't watched the show for several years before that.  I disliked the gross-out humor, the antipathy the gang felt for each other, and especially Mac going in and out, from gay to straight to gay again.  It's now in Season 18, so I thought I would give it a try.

In case you aren't familiar with it, Always Sunny features five "pals" who run a down-and-out bar in...Philadelphia.  Most episodes involve outlandish schemes to destroy each other or other people.

1.-2. Brother and sister Dennis (Glenn Howerton, below) and Dee

3. Frank (Danny DeVito), who is either their biological or adopted father.  He got extraordinarily rich through conning people, but prefers to live in squalor with Charlie.

4. Charlie (Charlie Day, top photo), their illiterate friend.  He and Frank share a bed, and in one episode got married, I think.  Charlie also gets extremely jealous when Frank starts dating his mother: "Don't try to steal my man again."  But they behave more like heterosexual life partners than a gay couple.

5. Mac (Rob McElhenny, below), who lives with Dennis and apparently has a crush on him.

Scene 1:
Dennis and Dee take Frank out to dinner to butter him up so he'll leave them some money when he dies: "We do a pretty good job of pretending that you're not an animal." While trying to open a can of sardines with a gun, Frank accidentally shoots them both.  "Oh, don't be so dramatic.  I just nicked you."

Scene 2: Dennis and Dee burst into Paddy's Bar and complain to Mac and Charlie about being shot.  They have to take the gun away from him, or he'll accidentally kill himself before he gets senile, and they can con him into leaving them his money.  

Charlie notes that he's expecting an inheritance, too: when he turns 40, he'll inherit the jar of teeth donated by all of his dead relatives.  Mac points out that he's already well past 40. 

Scene 3: Charlie and Mac burst into their moms' house to retrieve the jar of teeth (their moms are apparently a butch-femme lesbian couple).  While she's looking, Mac asks his mom about any inheritance he has coming.  Uncle Donald has some letters that his grandpa wrote to his dad during World War II.

Charlie's Mom gave away the jar of teeth, so she tries pulling her own teeth out to replace them (gross!).   Or he could retrieve them from his sisters, the worst people on the planet.  

Scene 4: Dennis and Dee driving with Frank, who is using his gun to scratch himself. They can't just grab it, or he would shoot them.  They decide to give him "a false sense of security" by being nice to him all day.

Cut to Charlie, Mac, and the moms on their way to retrieve the letters and the teeth. Charlie's Mom is driving too slowly and crying, and Mac's Mom is smoking and burning them with her cigarette lighter.

Scene 5: Dennis and Dee start out the nice day by buying Frank hamburgers.  He shoves his gun in his mouth, thinking that it's a French fry.  They stop at the bridge so he can run around and talk to his homeless friends.  He pisses on a fire hydrant.  "Frank is literally turning into a dog," they complain.

Cut to the four at Uncle Donald's house to retrieve the letters.  After a lot of gross comments about pooping, he serves them quiche.  He explains that Grandpa wrote to Mac's father, but not to him, because he was "the funny one" and "different," which is why he never married.  "I'm sure you understand what that's like, Mac."  Mac says "No," and then "I want the letters to pass down as a legacy to my kids."

Ok, what's going on here.  Why doesn't Uncle Donald just say that he's gay?  Why does Mac deny that he's gay?  

Uncle Donald: "All I ever really wanted was a connection to my father.  Do you understand what that's like, Mac?" "No."

Uncle Donald: "We should hang out some time and toss a football around."  Mac: "I don't like football."  Charlie glares at him: "Dude, all you ever talk about his wanting to throw a football with your father.  Everything you ever wanted is here.  Why are you ignoring it?"  I guess Mac wanted a father figure? I seem to recall that his biological father has rejected him because he's gay?  Mac doesn't explain.  While Uncle Donald is suggesting alternative activities, he walks out.  Harsh, dude.

Scene 6: Dennis and Dee take Frank to the beach, where he has a lot of memories.  He tries shooting the ocean: "Polluted sack of shit!"

He catches on to why they gave him a perfect day.  "I hung on too long, didn't I?"  He gives them the gun, and asks that they do it while he's looking at the ocean.  Uh-oh, they just wanted the gun, but Frank expects them to kill him!  "We're not going to kill you," they explain.  "There are too many people around."  He takes his gun back.

Cut to the four at Charlie's sisters' house to retrieve the teeth.  They burst out, calling Charlie a "fag" and asking why he brought his "fag friend."  They won't give him the teeth, because they need them for ASMR: they get paid to dip their hands in the jar and make teeth-clinking noises.  

More poop references.  Mac's mom used the World War II letters to wipe with, so they're gone.

Scene 7: Back at the bar, Charlie is trying to extract his own teeth to make a new teeth jar.  Frank opens the door with his guy, they yell at him, so he drops it.  It goes off, ricochets around, and hits everyone in the bar.  The end.

Whoa, I don't know what I hated the most about that episode, the teeth, the poop, or Mac denying being gay.  My Grade: is there anything below F?

See also: Sunny's Mac Finds His Pride

Jun 7, 2023

"Somebody Somewhere": Actually, a Depressed Plus-Sized Woman and her Gay BFF in Small-Town Kansas

 Somebody, Somewhere, on MAX (the most recent stupid HBO Max rebranding) looks like a British dramedy about a middle-aged, plus-sized woman with a dead sister (better than a dead wife) who joins a self-help group and finds friendship and love.  Sounds awful, but it's on MAX's LGBTQ list, so I'll give it a chance.

In the first episode, her coworker Joel  invites her to a support group called "Choir Practice," where members work through their trauma by singing.  I'm going in to the second episode (of seven), "Knicknacks and Doodads."

Scene 1: Sam (Bridget Everett) wakes up at 12:30 pm and yells at her next door neighbor/love interest for running an electric saw so early in the morning.  He gazes at her like she's Aphrodite descending from Olympus on a half-shell, and apologizes.  Ulp...her underwear is showing!  This turns him on even more.  Hey, an American flag.  I thought for sure this was British, due to the absence of supermodels and shirtless studs.  

Scene 2:
The Chef.  Sam and the friends she made at Choir Practice are having brunch (way too late for that, girlfriend).  They consist of coworker Joel; Michael, an attractive black man (Jon Hudson Odom, left); and Fred, a chubby nonbinary person who presents as masculine.

Fred and Michael get up to leave, but Joel stays behind to be with Sam, which makes Michael angry.  Are they an item?  Will Limp-Wrist Joel explore his bi side and dump him for the lady that everyone in town is gaga over?

Scene 3:  They head to a store owned by Sam's sister (a living one), one of those cutesy gift shops.  Sam insults the horrible crap.  Uh-oh, Love Interest Joel is a regular.  There went your chance of getting into his scrawny jeans, girl.

Sam's sister, who looks like a smaller version of her, and her employee or girlfriend, warmly greet their regular customer,  They have set aside some cardamom for him.  Sister wants Sam to hand-write the invitations to their Crazy Dayz  promotion.  Just print them out?  

Scene 4:
  On the way out of the store, Sam runs into Rick (Danny McCarthy), who snubs her.  He must be embarrassed because she saw him at choir practice last night.  She asks Love Interest Joel if he's gay.   Wait -- is this a LGBTQ choir practice?  So, Sam is gay?  With all the guys gazing at her like she's a potroast, I didn't think so.

Sorry, these actors all appear to have the same name as 1,000 other people.  So looking for Danny McCarthy on Google Images results in this:

Scene 5: Back home, next door neighbor is still working in the yard and waiting to flirt with Sam some more.  Actually, gaze at each other with Person-of-my-dreams horniness and not say much.   "I've lived here for a year, but I'm so painfully shy, and you're so incredibly gorgeous, that I couldn't say hello."  Hey, maybe he can work through his social anxiety disorder with Choir Practice!   

They discuss plants. Sam: "I can't keep anything alive over here." Neighbor: "Like your sister?"  OMG. There went your chance of getting into Sam's pants, idiot!  But she's so horny she lets it slide.

Neighbor: "By the way, my name is Drew." Sam: "Four letters, like fuck."  Smooth, girl.  They say goodbye.

Scene 6:  A farm.  A plus-sized middle-aged guy comes in from the fields and looks for some booze to get drunk with.  His sister or wife, who looks like an older version of Sam, asks what he wants for dinner.  "Pot pies."  She heads to the kitchen, and he stares at her with undisguised hatred.  Well, sometimes after being married for so long, you drift apart.  

Scene 7: Sam's job, I assume.  A bullpen full of desks, with inspirational posters on the walls.  The sign says "No cell phones during grading."  So they're professional exam graders?   Uh-oh, Sam is using a cell phone anyway, looking at photos of a little girl and a middle-aged male-female couple.  The hot girl behind her wants to know what she's looking at.  Dead sister, at various stages in her life?  Hot Girl narcs!

Headmistress yells at Sam for not meeting her daily quota of graded essays.  Hot Girl rubs it in: "She didn't even look in her folder."  Headmistress makes Hot Girl Monica her new boss.  

Cut to Sam and Love Interest Josh in the break room, flirting and chucking cookies into the trash can.

Scene 8: Sam arrives at the farm.  Her Mom from Sceen 6 is sleeping on a recliner.  She goes through the piano bench, looking for song books for Choir Practice.  "Where's Dad?"  "Out somewhere, doing somethin'" (in other words, "How the hell should I know?  We haven't been intimate since 1993.")

Sam goes out to the cornfield to look, in case Mom murdered him.  No, he's alive, just trapped in the silo.  "The...um...wind blew the door shut, and broke the handle off, so I couldn't get out."  Right, the wind.  So the joke here is that Mom keeps trying to murder Dad?

Scene 9:  At home.  Sam, her sister, sister's employee or girlfriend, and Coop (Josh Bywater), a guy who hasn't appeared before, are writing the invitations to the Crazy Dayz promotion, and strategizing about who in the Downtown Business Association to kiss up to.  Don't you love micropolitics? 

Coop smoochifies Sam's sister, establishing that they're straight, and the other lady is an employee.

Rick, who came to Choir Practice and then snubbed Sam, comes in and calls Coop "Coach," but he's too old to be a high school or college athlete.  I guess sometimes adults play sports on teams, too. 

Later, Sam corners Rick while he's playing video games to ask clever questions that will determine if he is gay. "So, the guys in your game are cute, huh?" Smooth, girl.  When he turns around, she sees a lot of money in his back pocket -- is he stealing or embezzling?  A more pressing question.

 Sam goes into the kitchen, where her sister and her employee are drinking booze, but she doesn't interrogate them about Rick's back-pocket money, Instead, she says that she's going to Love Interest Joel's place.

Sister and Employee go wild with congratualtory oohs. ""A man and a woman in alone at night.  You'll have sex!  It's impossible not to!"  

"No, we're just friends.  I'll explain how it's possible...see, gay people exist, and..." 

"Nope, don't believe it for a moment.  Any random man and woman alone at night will have sex. And, by the way, you're over 40 and fat -- join a gym.  We're just trying to help." Mmmm-hmmmm.  "Your dead sister would have thanked us."

Scene 10: Sam at Just Friend Joel's house with some song books, so they can look for numbers for Choir Practice.  He appears to be living alone, so maybe Michael is just a friend, too.

  She criticizes his "vision board," a collage of pictures symbolizing what you want in life: a nice kitchen?  Visiting Europe?  You and your partner adopting kids?  Being close to your family?  In Kansas? Impossible!  "We're in our 40s, and it hasn't happened, so it's not going to happen, ever.."   I thought she was going to diss him for having small, realistic dreams instead of thinking big, but she's dissing him for having dreams of any sort.  Goals are stupid.  Just be miserable.

She continues to diss him for thinking that he, or anybody, can be happy in life, and then leaves.  Wait -- is this a comedy?

Scene 10:  She continues to be depressed in her very nice house, walking through the very nice town, at her admittedly horrible job, and eating alone in a restaurant because she's pushed everyone away.  Call the hot next door neighbor who looks at you like he's about to have an orgasm on the spot..  Finally she visits a new character named Kim, who is delighted to see her: "I just bought the boat I've been dreaming of."  Don't diss her for it, don't diss her for it, don't diss her...

Sam says that she doesn't like it here in Kansas: "I can't get comfortable without her."  I would ordinarily think a girlfriend, but she means her dead sister.

Kim's girlfriend comes out to complain that the internet is out, so Kim gives her some tech talk.  A lesbian couple!   Also bereaved, Kim suggests doing little things that make you happy: "Buy the boat."

Scene 11: Sam goes to bestie Joel's house to apologize for being a bitch.  She was just jealous because he knows what makes him happy, and she has no idea.  "How about singing?"  "No, I'm no good at that. I'm actually no good at anything."  So he talks her into Zumba.  The end.

Beefcake: I went through the entire cast list.  Nothing.  The top photo is a random hunk.

Gay Characters: Michael and the lesbian couple that Sam visits.

Every guy on the show acts like he's desperate to tear Sam's clothes off, so I can't tell if Joel is an actual love interest or just following the script. The episode synopses are mostly about the two breaking up, realizing that they can't live without each other, reconciling, starting a new life together, and so on, but that could be a description of a very, very, very strong platonic friendship.

Actor Jeff Hiller states that Joel is gay, and unique in several ways: he's not gorgeous, he's over 40, and  "I’ve never seen someone on TV who’s religious and happy being religious. And it’s not a joke that they’re religious. And they’re not being persecuted by the Church.” His religious side did not appear in Episode 2, unless it really was choir practice -- I thought the name was a joke.

Unpleasant Characters:  Sam is a thoroughly unpleasant person who self-sabotages everything she tries.  Why would I want to watch a tv show about her?

Update: In Episode 4, we learn that Joel is dating Michael, who keeps getting angry when Sam pushes her way into all of their time together.  Well, to be fair, he gets about 3 seconds of screen time with Joel (and no kissing), while she gets 21 minutes.  Nearly as soon as we figure out that they are dating, Michael dumps Joel, so it's all Sam all the time.  You definitely expect them to kiss

In Season 2, Episode 3, Joel finally meets a new guy, to spend 30 seconds talking to.  A kiss in Episode 5.  Their main concern, of course, is how to break the news to Deb.

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