May 25, 2013

Floating Skyscrapers: Guns Don't Kill, Gay People Do

In April 2013, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York screened the "First LGBT Film in Poland," Floating Skyscrapers.  It's slow, claustrophobic, and creepy, presenting gay people as abnormal, mentally ill, askew.  And the guys aren't even cute.

Young swimming champion Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) seems to be heterosexual; he likes his girlfriend, Sylwie, and has sex with her regularly.  But he's also drawn by his dark, subconscious longings to enage in "down low" anonymous gay encounters in public toilets. Kuba and Sylwie live with a possessive, smothering mother, Ewa, who has a weird incestuous interest in scrubbing his back while he bathes.

Oh, that's why he turned gay -- a possesive mother drove him crazy.  Got it.

Meanwhile, Michal (former Polish teen idol Bartosz Gellner),who is more open about his sexual identity, tries to come out to his parents. His father recoils in homophobic rage, and his mother -- another possessive, smothering mother, by the way -- refuses to believe it.

The two meet at an art museum -- Kuba is with his girlfriend, but that doesn't stop him from hooking up with Michal.   They begin seeing each other regularly, although it's not really a relationship, just an expression of their psychosis.  Kuba becomes so obsessed that he can't concentrate on his swimming.

Finally Sylvia and Ewa figure out what's going on, and band together with Michal's mother to force them to give up their abnormal obsession -- or die trying.  And death happens.

This movie is about how being gay is a tragedy that destroys lives.

Director Tomasz Wasilewski has only one previous credit, In the Bedroom (2012), about a woman whose uncontrollable sexual obsession drives her to prostitution and destroys her life.  So it's not just being gay -- it's nymphomania, too.

And Bartosz Gellner previously starred in Suicide Room (2011), as the crush of a high school boy,  Dominik (Jacob Gierszal, left).  When word of the infatuation gets out and humiliates him, Dominik commits suicide.  Nice.

May 24, 2013

Josh Zuckerman: No Gay Men Exist

Josh Zuckerman spend his adolescence in buddy-bonding roles, mostly with other men.  For instance, in the Disney Channel movie Twas the Night (2001), irresponsible Nick Wrigley (Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle), fleeing from gansters, takes refuge at his brother's house.  While delivering presents, Santa gets clocked on the head, and the gangsters steal the time-dilation device that allows him to visit 1.3 billion households in a single night.

So Nick and his mischievous 14-year old nephew Danny (Josh Zuckerman) must deliver all of the presents and subdue the gangsters.



It differs from the standard "saving Christmas" plot in the real peril, and in Nick and Danny, who move from stereotyped uncle and nephew to classic 1930s Adventure Boy and adult companion.

So far, so good.  But that same year, Josh starred in "Four Eyes," an episode of Nightmare Room about a boy who discovers that alien monsters are trying to take over the world, and rushes to save his girlfriend.

Then he landed a star vehicle, I was a Teenage Faust (2002), about a 15-year old boy (Josh) who sells his soul to the devil in order to win The Girl of His Dreams.  Heterosexist tripe.



I didn't have the stomach to see him in anything else for a few years, but evidently he starred with Ben Affleck in Surviving Christmas (2004) and Balthazar Getty in Feast (2005), and had recurring roles in Kyle XY (2008-09) and Desperate Housewives (2009-2010).

But the sex comedy Sex Drive (2008) is all shot through with homophobia and gay stereotypes. It's got Seth Green in it, so you know there's going to be trouble.  Ian (Josh) goes on a road trip in search of the Girl of His Dreams, Ms. Tasty (her stage name), who lives in Chattanooga. He borrows the car from his "fag" and "homo"-spouting brother Rex (James Marsden): "All guys have fantasies about guys, but this is America!"

When he gets to Chattanooga, Rex appears and refuses to let him seal the deal, so he pretends to be gay so Rex will relent -- maybe having sex with a girl will "change him back."  In the end, Ian marries The Girl, and Rex is revealed to be gay (but he doesn't get a boyfriend). There's also a subplot about the Amish.

At least there's plenty of nudity.



Josh's next project: Acid Girls (2013).  According to the imdb:
"Every man's dream becomes every man's nightmare when a recently-single 20-something picks up three cam girls in a bar and welcomes them into his home."

EVERY man's dream?  Are we still so utterly, utterly certain that there is not a single gay man alive anywhere on the face of the Earth?








Student of the Year: Bollywood Gay Romance

A South Asian news story can't overcome its hilarity.  When Varun Dhawan was promoting his new movie, Student of the Year (2012), in Ahmedabad, he never imagined that he would have to face the affections of a MALE!!! fan. But that's exactly what happened -- while he was signing autographs, a MALE!!! burst through the crowd and grabbed his hand. He tried to disengage, but the MALE!!! said "I love you," as if he wanted all the world to hear.  Varun was left shocked and embarrassed. He refuses to discuss the incident.

Varun's humiliation and the reporter's salacious delight suggests that homophobia in India is rather fierce and dark. There are gay characters in Bollywood movies, but usually humorous stereotypes (sort of like the nail-filing, show tune-humming gay "best friend" of the heroine in Hollywood comedies).

And in spite of Varun's problem, Student of the Year has a strong gay subtext (and a gay character).

Middle class boy Abhi (Siddharth Malhotra, left) enrolls at the ritzy St. Teresa's High School, where he befriends the wealthy Rohan (Varun Dhawan, top photo, the guy who was humiliated by the existence of a gay fan).  The two are soon competing over a girl, Shanaya (Alia Bhatt), and for the Student of the Year award sponsored by the school's gay Dean.










The classic triangulation takes on epic proportions, involving a wedding in Thailand, the death of Abhi's grandmother, Rohan being rejected by his parents, and a fight that demolishes the entire campus.   Abhi lets Rohan win the Student of the Year award, but Rohan refuses to accept it, and the students lambast the Dean for creating a competition that leads to rifts between close friends.

Ten years pass, and Rohan and Abhi meet again.  They argue, fight, and reconcile.  Nothing can tarnish such a close friendship.  Fade out with just the two of them, no girls in sight.



The gay subtext has even been noticed in India, where rumors are flying that Siddharth and Varun are involved in real life.  Director Karan Johar has also received his share of gay rumors.  Everybody denies everything.


May 23, 2013

Josh Hutcherson: Straight but Not Narrow

In April 2012, 19-year old Josh Hutcherson became the youngest person ever to win the GLAAD Vanguard Award for the "Straight but Not Narrow" anti-homophobia campaign that he started (with buddy Avan Joggia of Victorious).

Paradoxically, his on-screen performances have veered toward the heterosexist.

I first noticed him in Bridge to Terabintha (2007), about two preteens who escape from the horrors of real life into an imaginary world, but find that it can't help them.  Real life is too awful.

I hated it: the trailers led me to expect a Chronicles of Narnia-style adventure about a "real" fantasy world, not two mentally ill kids who were hallucinating.  And one of them dies. Oh, and Josh's character gets a girlfriend.



And Firehouse Dog (2007), about a movie-star dog who goes to work in a struggling firehouse, and revives it with the help of a boy, Shane (Josh).  Who gets a girlfriend.

So far this actor's work was depressing, but being a Jules Verne fan, I gave him another chance in the latest adaption of Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008).   In search of his missing brother, geologist Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) explores the Center of the Earth, along with his nephew Sean (Josh) and their teenage guide Anita.  Both Trevor and Sean are into Anita (she picks Trevor).

Ok, what about Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009), based on the gay-subtext novel series by Darren Shan?  There's some buddy-bonding: Darren (Chris Massoglia) offers to become a vampire to save the life of his buddy Steve (Josh).

And The Kids are All Right (2010): Josh plays Laser, teenage son of a lesbian couple.

But The Hunger Games (2012): Peeta (Josh) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) are chosen to participate in a teenage survival-death game where the last one alive wins.  They fall in love, and find a way to both survive.  Fade out kiss.







The Forger (2012), with Jansen Panettiere, looks promising. But Paradise Lost (2014) will star Josh as a young surfer who meets "the girl of his dreams" in Colombia.

Besides, I'm still mad about The Bridge to Terabintha.

The Boys of Rebelde

Rebelde (2011-2012) is a teen telenovela modeled on the Argentine Rebelde Way (with Benjamin Rojas), about teenagers in an exclusive private school who form a band.  But it upped the beefcake and the gay subtexts of the original.

There are two versions, Brazilian and Mexican.

1. Pedro (Micael Borges) enrolls in the private school in order to avenge his father's death, but ends up falling in love with the daughter of the man responsible.

2. Diego (Arthur Aguilar, left) is his best friend, but when they both date the same girl, they have a falling out and break up.




3. The gay-vague Tomas (Chay Suede) steps in while Pedro and Diego are "on a break."

4. Meanwhile, Joao (Michel Gomes) aggressively courts Diego.














5. Teo (Bernardo Falcone) is the slim, stylish, gay-vague "best friend" to all the girls.
















6. Fabio (Pedro Cassiano) is the chief antagonist.

7. Rafael (Rodrigo Costa), a gay character, who seems to hang around just to get bullied and discriminated against.

May 22, 2013

Triangles Turn You Gay: The Teletubbies

The Big Bad of the 1980s and 1990s was Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority in 1979 with a fundamentalist Christian agenda: they were against liberalism, modernism, minority religions, the New Age, abortion, sex, feminists, women's rights, yada yada yada.

Actor Richard Paul made a good living playing shrill, bigoted Jerry Falwell lookalikes on everything from Eight is Enough to WKRP in Cincinnati.  His Rev. Billy Joe Bickerstaff was especially shrill as a regular on Hail to the Chief (1985), fomenting outrage over the female President (Patty Duke) and her wastrel son (future soap hunk Ricky Paull Goldin, left)

Jerry Falwell screamed loudest about the ranks of "Violent, God-hating, clinically insane, militant homosexuals" who were scheming to spread  AIDS, destroy the family, kill children, and basically destroy civilization.

The "militant homosexuals" were working behind the scenes to orchestrate every social problem, from crime to unemployment, and every tragedy, from Jonestown to 9/11.

And, since you could turn gay just by hearing that it exists, they increased their ranks by introducing subtle brainwashing into dozens of movies, books, and tv shows, especially those aimed at juveniles .  So Rev. Falwell and his minions carefully scanned every frame of Saved by the Bell, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Full House and screamed super loud when they found something.

Fortunately, he never noticed same-sex romance, no matter how blatant.  He was looking for the word "gay," or, since he thought that all gay people were limp-wristed pansies and jackboot-wearing dykes, gender-atypical mannerisms.  Thus, the romance between Zack and Slater (Mark Paul-Goesselaer, Mario Lopez) on Saved by the Bell was no problem, but just let Slater don an "effeminate" leotard and take up modern dance, and the howls of outrage began.

The nadir of Falwell's obsession with "pansies" on children's tv came in 1998, when he scrutinized Teletubbies (1997-2003), a British series about four preverbal alien toddlers.  He noticed that the largest Teletubby, Tinky Winky, was purple -- the gay color!  And had a triangular antenna -- the gay symbol!  And carried a handbag -- a pansy!

The producers denied that they were trying to brainwash kids into becoming pansies.  Tinky Winky was even interviewed on a talk show, where he said "No -- not gay."  These preverbal alien toddlers were heterosexual!

If Falwell had done a little more research, he might have discovered that the gay pride symbol is a pink triangle, the color is lavender, not purple, and gay men don't typically carry handbags.


Even his most rabid followers found this "threat" ridiculous.

Jerry Falwell died in 2007, but the homophobic scrutiny of children's media continues, to ensure that millions of gay kids grow up thinking they are utterly alone in the world.

Gay Self-Defense in 1982: Siege

In an era where gay people were portrayed as sashaying male "fruitcakes" and murderous lesbian psychopaths, the Canadian movie Siege, aka Self-Defense (1982) is a rarity: a gay guy as hero.

During the 1981 Halifax, Nova Scotia police strike, a group of homophobic cops called the N.O. ("New Order") decide to invade a gay bar and terrorize the patrons at gunpoint.  The patrons fight back, and the bartender is accidentally killed.  So N.O. leader Cage (Douglas Lenox) orders his men to kill all the witnesses.






Only Daniel (Terry-David Despres, left) escapes.  He seeks refuge in the home of a heterosexual couple, Horatio (Tom Nardini) and Barbara (Brenda Bazinet), who are minding a pair of blind teenagers for the weekend (Jack Blum and Keith Knight, both veterans of the gay-subtext Meatballs).  The N.O. arrives and lays siege to the house.








 Daniel and his new friends defend themselves with anything they can find, including a homemade bow and arrow.  Eventually they move next door, where a survivalist buddy (Daryl Haney) has a stash of weapons.

The homophobes start throwing tear gas.  Daniel and company start firing rockets.  There's a bloody climactic battle.



The movie is actually grim, bloody, and unpleasant, and shot with a dark palette that makes it difficult to see anything.  A lot of people get killed, and there's not time for much buddy-bonding.  But it's worth it to see a gay guy standing up to homophobes in 1982.

Tom Nardini was a fixture of juvenile delinquent and cowboy movies in the 1960s, so he has some shirtless and tight-pants shots elsewhere.

You can see it on youtube.

May 20, 2013

Ben Hur: A Gay Tale of Christ

Ben Hur (1959), based on the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ, by Lew Wallace, was one of those big-budget epics with "a cast of thousands" that studios in the 1950s hoped would draw people away from television.  And it worked: 11 Academy Awards, second-highest grossing movie of all time to date (after Gone with the Wind), re-released in 1969, broadcast on tv in 1971.  With a palpable gay subtext.

Gore Vidal, the gay author who wrote the screenplay, apparently included a gay text: around the time of Christ, the Roman Messala (Stephen Boyd) is made tribune of the province of Judea, and looks up his boyhood lover, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston, previously seen in Peer Gynt).  But Ben-Hur refuses to rekindle the romance, and the enraged Messala tries to destroy him.



The gay text was removed -- you can't have lovers on screen in 1959 -- but the subtext was strong enough, with Messala and Ben-Hur gazing into each other's eyes and linking arms to drink out of each other's cups.  The only problem is, there's no real explanation left for why Messala suddenly turns evil: when a stone from Ben-Hur's roof accidentally falls and injures the Governor of Judea, he seizes on the incident to sell his former "friend" and his mother and sister into slavery.


After three years as a galley slave, Ben-Hur makes a new "friend," Roman Consul Arius (Jack Hawkins), who brings him back to Rome, trains him as a charioteer, and adopts him.

But Ben-Hur wants revenge, and he wants to find his mother and sister.  So after a few years of domestic bliss with his older boyfriend,  he heads back to Judea and challenges Messala to a chariot race.  Messala dies, Ben-Hur is reconciled with his mother and sister.

Ben-Hur gets a girl along the way, but no fade-out kiss.  The final scene shows Ben-Hur and his family witnessing the Crucifixion, where they learn to forgive the Romans.








"Admitted heterosexual" Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur) was no gay ally: "I find my blood pressure rising when [President Bill] Clinton's cultural shock troops participate in homosexual-rights fund-raisers..and claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents with Boy Scouts."

But Stephen Boyd (Messala) was gay. Here he buddy-bonds with David Wayne in another gay-subtext movie, The Big Gamble (1961).

See also: Ramon Novarro, who starred in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur.

May 19, 2013

Stephen King's Cell


In the 1970s, Stephen King single-handedly revitalized the moribund genre of horror fiction by using contemporary settings, small-town high schools and supermarkets instead of castles in Transylvania, and by making his protagonists “total guys” who listen to rock music, watch the Boston Celtics, and drink Budweiser, instead of mild-mannered scholars translating eldrich lore from the Assyrian. But he failed to modernize the homophobia of the genre: In The Shining (1977), the Overlook Hotel in Colorado is haunted chiefly because it was the site of unimaginable depravity during the Jazz Age. There was even sex between men! In It (1986), the monster takes on most terrifying form imaginable, a pedophile Clown; there are also two gay human monsters, a lipstick-wearing swish and a bisexual pervert who likes to watch animals die. In The Tommyknockers (1987), a lisping gay necrophiliac swish receives a gory, well-deserved punishment. In Everything’s Eventual (2002), a man who stakes out a highway rest stop in the hope of engaging in sex with other men! receives a gory, well-deserved punishment.

Contrary to the pattern, Cell (2006) contains no gay monster, human or otherwise. Tom, one of the three survivors who band together when everyone with a cell phone turns into a murderous zombie, is certainly a stereotype, a throwback to the “confirmed bachelors” of 1960s comedy: mild-mannered, soft-spoken, with long, nimble fingers and King’s usual “something of a lisp.” Yet Tom displays hidden reserves of courage, he becomes an invaluable member of the group, and straight protagonist Clay likes him – the highest praise a gay man can hope for! King even addresses the pedophilia libel by giving Tom a paternal bond with twelve-year computer geek Jordan (see, gay men aren’t all pedophiles after all).

But King is careful to make Tom’s gayness nvisible. He is identified as “gay” only twice, both times during the concluding chapters (by then, King no doubt reasoned, his homophobic readers would be too engrossed in the story to toss the book aside in disgust). Otherwise you have to parse it out through stereotypes and subtle hints. When they take refuge at Tom’s house, Clay notes the fastidious neatness and muses that it is characteristic of men whose lives “don’t necessarily include women.” When Tom plans to spend the night with a hysterical teenage girl, to comfort her, he asks, “You know I’m safe with her, right?” Clay nods; he understands that Tom actually means “I won’t try anything sexual because I’m gay.” Even though civilization has collapsed and they are facing horrifying danger, they are still unable to lower their guard and Say the Word.

See also: Two Zombie Movies with Gay Characters.




They Had Faces Then: TV Hunks Before Beefcake



On a February 6, 1969 episode of That Girl, Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) helps out a nun, and then asks a passing priest for directions out of the convent.  He points the way, and she says "Thank you, Father."  He responds, "That's all right, my daughter."  The studio audience goes  into hysterics.

At the time I didn't get the joke -- the priest was played by Danny Thomas, star of the long-running sitcom Make Room for Daddy (1953-64), and Marlo's real life father.  I was eight years old, and all I could think of was that this guy was cute, and it would be nice to see him with his shirt off.  Turns out he looks better with his shirt on.








During the 1950s, male tv stars rarely took their shirts off, even in Westerns and adventure series (Ty Hardin, top photos, was never displayed nude or semi nude on Bronco).  And when they did, there was usually little of interest underneath except chest hair. So gay kids of the first Boomer generation couldn't depend on pecs and abs.  They had to concentrate on the faces.

Take Richard Greene, who starred in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-59).  Which photo would you prefer to tape to your bedroom wall?





Or Eddie Fisher, popular crooner who hosted Coke Time with Eddie Fisher (1953-57), and along the way married Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, and Connie Stevens.  Which photo is dreamiest?




There's something to be said for leaving your clothes on (well, maybe not if you're Robert Goulet).  With the raw erotic energy of the naked body obscured, the star looks suave, sophisticated, ready for romance, leading you to fantasies about holding hands and kissing on the doorstep rather than what might happen in the bedroom.  And at age eight, who cares about what happens in the bedroom?

See also: Beefcake Dads of 1950s Sitcoms


Jason Marsden, the Pocket Gay

Jason Marsden is often mixed up with fellow teen idol James Marsden.  James has the muscles, but Jason has the smile.  And he's a stronger gay ally.

An active child star, Jason got his start at age 11, playing A. J. Quartermaine on General Hospital (1986-88) and werewolf-boy Eddie Munster on the remake of the classic 1960s tv series The Munsters (1988-91).










As a teenager and young adult, he occasionally played a girl's boyfriend, but more often, a boy's homoromantic best buddy: his characters bonded with Omri Katz in the paranormal-investigator series Eerie Indiana (1992), Perry King in Almost Home (1993), Brandon Call (left) on Step by Step (1993-98), Will Friedle on Boy Meets World (1994-95), Boomer Bridges in White Squall (1996), and Robert Downey Jr. on Allie McBeal (1997).

In a 2002 episode of Will and Grace, he plays "the pocket gay," who is rejected by Will for being too short but eventually wins him over.

Jason has been doing cartoon voice work since 1990.  He may be best known as the voice of Chester McBadBat, working-class boyfriend of the elite A.J. on Fairly Oddparents (2003-2011); and Max Goof, surly teenage son of Disney's Goofy in Goof Troop (1992-3), two movies (1995, 2002), and House of Mouse (2001-2002), for some reason a gay fan favorite and the subject of lots of homoerotic slash fiction.

His only significant beefcake shots were in Return to the Batcave (2003), an adventure involving the real life Adam West and Burt Ward, Batman and Robin from the 1960s tv series.  As the young Burt Ward, Jason displayed an impressive muscular physique.

He also looked impressive below the belt, but that may have been necessary to the plot, which devotes a great deal of time to the censors fretting over the Boy Wonder's massive endowment.